Case study: Donoghue v. Stevenson Donoghue v. The ruling in this case established the civil law tort of negligence and obliged businesses to observe a duty of care towards their customers. The events of the case took place in Paisley, Scotland in
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A dead snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. There was also a sufficiently proximate relationship between consumers and product manufacturers.
Prior to Donoghue v Stevenson, liability for personal injury in tort usually depended upon showing physical damage inflicted directly trespass to the person or indirectly trespass on the case. Being made ill by consuming a noxious substance did not qualify as either, so the orthodox view was that Mrs Donoghue had no sustainable claim in law.
However, the decision fundamentally created a new type of liability in law which did not depend upon any previously recognised category of tortious claims. This was an evolutionary step in the common law for tort and delict, moving from strict liability based upon direct physical contact to a fault-based system which only required injury. This evolution was taken further in the later decision of Letang v Cooper  1 QB when it was held that actions should not be jointly pleaded in trespass and negligence, but in negligence alone.
A friend, [Note 2] who was with her, ordered a pear and ice for herself and a Scotsman ice cream float , a mix of ice cream and ginger beer , for Donoghue. Stevenson, Glen Lane, Paisley". Bottles were often reused, and in the process occasionally returned to the incorrect manufacturer.
Moreover, Stevenson initially claimed he did not issue bottles matching the description provided by Donoghue. Donoghue claimed that she felt ill from this sight, complaining of abdominal pain.
Moreover, neither had a contract with Stevenson, the manufacturer. Only limited exceptions to this rule were made in which duties were found in specific circumstances, most of which had a contractual background.
In separate hearings in Glasgow and Greenock Sheriff Court respectively, Orbine was successful in claiming compensation while the Mullens were not. The losing parties of both cases appealed to the Court of Session. However, the court ruled against the claimants.
However, it was recorded on 20 December that Donoghue did not pay the costs awarded to Minghella. In his judgment, delivered on the same day, he held that, as a general principle, there should be liability for negligent preparation of food. I fail to see why the fact that the danger has been introduced by an act of negligence and does not advertise itself, should release the negligent manufacturer from a duty, or afford him a supplementary defence.
The liability for negligence, whether you style it such or treat it as in other systems as a species of "culpa," is no doubt based upon a general public sentiment of moral wrongdoing for which the offender must pay. But acts or omissions which any moral code would censure cannot, in a practical world, be treated so as to give a right to every person injured by them to demand relief.
In this way rules of law arise which limit the range of complainants and the extent of their remedy. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be — persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.
Cardozo in MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. It is a proposition which I venture to say no one in Scotland or England who was not a lawyer would for one moment doubt. It will be an advantage to make it clear that the law in this matter, as in most others, is in accordance with sound common sense. I think that this appeal should be allowed. However, he held that where goods could not be examined or interfered with, the manufacturer had "of his own accord, brought himself into direct relationship with the consumer, with the result that the consumer [was] entitled to rely upon the exercise of diligence by the manufacturer to secure that the article shall not be harmful to the consumer", an exception to the general nonexistence of a duty of care that applied to Donoghue.
It concerns itself with carelessness only where there is a duty to take care and where failure in that duty has caused damage". These circumstances "must adjust and adapt itself to the changing circumstances of life. The categories of negligence are never closed". He therefore found that Donoghue had a cause of action and commented that he was "happy to think that in It is obvious that, if such responsibility attached to the defenders, they might be called on to meet claims of damages which they could not possibly investigate or insure.
While he agreed with Lord Atkin that the duty of care a manufacturer owed to its consumers was the same regardless of the product they produced, he held that no general duty of care existed and that the fact the product was in a sealed container made no difference to the finding of a such duty. She continued to work as a shop assistant.
In February , Donoghue divorced her husband, from whom she had separated in and who now had two sons by another woman, and reverted to using her maiden name. It became a limited company David Stevenson Beers and Minerals Limited on 1 July ; the family sold their shares in The Glen Lane manufacturing plant was demolished in the s.
Minghella, its owner, subsequently became a labourer; he died on 20 March Every man ought to take reasonable care that he does not injure his neighbour; therefore, wherever a man receives any hurt through the default of another, though the same were not wilful, yet if it be occasioned by negligence or folly, the law gives him an action to recover damages for the injury so sustained.
Winchester  and MacPherson v. The manufacturer was sued in negligence and the court held that manufacturers could owe their ultimate consumers a duty of care in limited circumstances. Its nature gives warning of the consequences to be expected. If to the element of danger there is added knowledge that the thing will be used by persons other than the purchaser, and used without new tests, then, irrespective of contract, the manufacturer of this thing of danger is under a duty to make it carefully If he is negligent, where danger is to be foreseen, a liability will follow.
I doubt whether the whole law of tort could not be comprised in the golden maxim to do unto your neighbour as you would that he should do unto you. The case was appealed to the House of Lords, who held by a majority that the Home Office did owe a duty of care. It is not to be treated as if it were a statutory definition.
It will require qualification in new circumstances. But I think that the time has come when we can and should say that it ought to apply unless there is some justification or valid explanation for its exclusion.
The absence of authority shows that no such duty [to Dorset Yacht Company] now exists. If there should be one, that is, in my view, a matter for the legislature and not for the courts".
In other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand , there is now a two-part test for novel fact situations, where the establishment of a duty must be balanced against applicable policy matters. Comparative law[ edit ] The judgment and reasoning of Lord Atkin in Donoghue v Stevenson is very similar to the judgment and reasoning applied by Cardozo CJ in the American case of Palsgraf v.
Long Island Railroad Co. Although the similarity in approach has been noted by commentators,.
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