Cite as: SC (HL) 31,  UKHL 3,  UKHL ,  AC Donoghue v Stevenson  UKHL (26 May ). Donoghue v Stevenson  AC negligence, duty of care, neighbour test, tort law. Donoghue v Stevenson . Facts. Donoghue’s friend purchased her a bottle of ginger beer; The bottle contained the decomposing remains.
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It laid the foundation of the modern law of negligenceestablishing general principles of the duty of care.
Donoghue v Stevenson  AC 562, HL
A dead snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Donooghue Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm to consumers.
There was also a sufficiently proximate relationship between consumers and product manufacturers. Prior to Donoghue v Stevensonliability 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 f and ice for herself and a Scotsman ice cream floata mix of ice cream and ginger beerfor Donoghue. Stevenson, Glen Lane, Paisley”. Furthermore, although the bottle was labelled as Stevenson’s, McByde suggests it is possible it did not originally belong to him.
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. However, when Donoghue’s friend poured the remaining ginger beer into the sgevenson, a decomposed snail also floated out of the bottle.
Donoghue claimed that she felt ill from this sight, complaining of abdominal pain. Despite the ruling in MullenLeechman issued a writ on Donoghue’s behalf against Stevenson on 9 April The full allegations made by Donoghue were presented in five condescendences, which claimed that Stevenson had a duty of care to Donoghue to ensure that snails did not get into his bottles of ginger beer, but that he had breached this duty by failing to provide a system to clean bottles effectively, a system that would usually be used in the business and was necessary given that the ginger beer was intended for human consumption.
Stevenson responded to the condescendences by denying that any of his bottles of ginger beer had contained snails and “that the aac injuries are grossly exaggerated Injuries resulting donoggue defective products were normally claimed on the basis of a contract of sale between the seller and the consumer.
Moreover, neither had a contract donohhue Stevenson, the manufacturer. Ansell v Waterhouse  had established in that legal liability could arise for an donoghhue or omission “contrary to the duty which the law casts on him in the particular case” i. Only limited xtevenson to stevensob rule were made in which 192 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.
At the Court of Session, the claimants argued that although there was no direct evidence that the manufacturer had been negligent in preparing the ginger beer, negligence could be presumed res ipsa zc from the mere presence of dead mice in ginger beer bottles. However, the court ruled against the claimants.
However, neither of the circumstances in which negligence could be found in product liability cases applied to Donoghue: Nevertheless, Donoghue’s counsel argued that manufacturers also owed a duty of care to their ultimate consumers if it was not possible to examine the goods before they were used, an exception that would apply to Donoghue.
The first interlocutory action was heard on the Court of Session on 21 May in front of Lord Moncrieff. After an adjournmentMinghella was added as a defender on 5 June; however, the claim against him was abandoned on 19 November, likely due to his lack of contractual relationship with Donoghue Donoghue’s friend had purchased the ginger beer and his inability to examine the contents of the dark glass bottle.
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 stevensonn negligent preparation of food. I am unhesitatingly of opinion that those who deal with the production of food or produce fluids for beverage purposes ought not to be heard to plead ignorance of the active danger which will be associated with their products, as a consequence of any imperfect observation of cleanliness at any stage in the course of the process of manufacture Tainted food when offered for sale is, in my opinion, amongst the most subtly potent of ‘dangerous goods’, and to deal in or prepare such food is highly relevant sfevenson infer a duty.
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. English case law that required that liability for injuries resulting from goods that were not intrinsically dangerous to have a contractual basis breach of warranty was dismissed by Lord Moncrieff citing John Salmond for the narrowness of the approach and because there was no decision that incorporated it into Scots law.
Stevenson appealed the case to the Inner Housewhere it was heard by the same four judges who had found against Mullen: Donoghue filed a petition to appeal to the House of Lords on 25 February A supplementary statement from Donoghue’s appeal papers indicates that her counsel, George Morton KC and William Milligan later the Lord Advocate and a Privy Counsellorargued that “where anyone performs an operation, such as the manufacture of an article, a relationship of duty independent of contract may in certain circumstance arise, the extent of such duty in every case depending on the particular circumstances of the case”.
Stevenson’s counsel, Wilfrid Normand KC Solicitor General for Scotland and later a Law Lord and James Clyde later the Lord President of the Court of Session and a Privy Counsellorresponded that “it is now firmly established both in English and Scottish law that in the ordinary case which this is the supplier or manufacturer of an article is under no duty to anyone with whom he is not in contractual relation”.
The House of Lords gave judgment on 26 May after an unusually long delay of over five months since the hearing. Lord Atkin commented that he did “not think a more important problem has occupied your Lordships in your judicial capacity, important both because of its bearing on public health and because of the practical test which it applies to the system under which it arises”.
He supported this broad test by citing Heaven v Pender  and rejected the cases in favour of a narrower interpretation of a duty of care with the example of negligently poisoned food, for which there had been no claim against the manufacturer.
Lord Atkin then rejected cases that did not support his approach and cited Benjamin N. Cardozo in MacPherson v.
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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. Lord Thankerton ruled that Donoghue had no contract with Stevenson, nor that her case was covered by one of the scenarios in which a duty of care had previously been found.
However, he held that where goods could not be examined or interfered with, the manufacturer had “of his own accord, brought himself into donogbue relationship with the consumer, with the result that the consumer [was] entitled to rely steevenson 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.
Lord Thankerton further argued that it was impossible “to catalogue finally, amid the ever-varying types of human relationships, those relationships in which a duty to exercise care arises apart from contract” and commented that he “should be sorry to think that the meticulous care of the manufacturer to exclude interference or inspection by the [seller] should relieve the [seller] of any responsibility to the consumer without any corresponding assumption of duty by the manufacturer”.
Lord Macmillan examined previous cases : It concerns itself with carelessness only where there is a duty to take care and where failure in that duty has caused damage”. Steveson 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 The minority consisted of Lord Buckmaster and Lord Tomlin.
Lord Buckmaster stdvenson George v Skivington opining that “few cases can have lived so dangerously and lived so long”, : 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. Lord Tomlin concurred with Lord Buckmaster. 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.
The suggested ratio decidendi Latin: Although the neighbour principle was a critical part of Lord Atkin’s reasoning, and was therefore part of the ratio of his judgment, neither of the other judges in the majority expressly endorsed the principle. The legal basis for the stevenosn now settled, the case was returned to the Court of Session donighue a hearing scheduled for January In the hearing, Donoghue would have to prove the factual elements of the case that she had claimed, including that there had been a snail in the ginger beer as a result of Stevenson’s negligence and that this snail had caused her illness.
However, the claim was settled out of court in December : Donoghue had moved to Maitland Street with her son, Henry, around February ; he moved out when he married inafter which she moved to Jamieson Street.
Donoghue v Stevenson 
She continued to work as a shop assistant. In FebruaryDonoghue divorced her husband, from whom she had separated donooghue and who now had two sons by another woman, and reverted to using her maiden name. Stevenson’s business was taken over by his widow, Mary, and his son, the third David Stevenson in the family.
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 Lord Atkin’s neighbour principle, that people must take reasonable care not to injure others who could foreseeably be affected by their action or inaction, was a response to a question a lawyer posed.
The neighbour principle itself was first mentioned in relation to law by Francis Buller [Note 6] in An Introduction to the Law relative to Trials at Nisi Priuswhich was printed in 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.
In precedent, there was an obiter suggestion by Lord Esher in Heaven v Pender that “whenever one person is by circumstances placed in such a position with regard to another that every one of ordinary sense Winchester  and MacPherson v.
Thomas’ wife became seriously ill as a consequence and Thomas successfully claimed in negligence; Winchester’s behaviour had created an imminent danger which justified a finding of a duty of care.
This principle was relied on in MacPhersonin which f car wheel stevenon, injuring MacPherson.
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.
Lord Atkin used the concept of legal neighbours in an address 1392 the University of Birmingham ‘s Holdsworth Club on 9 Mayin which he commented that “the donoggue who swears unto his neighbour and disappointeth him not is a person commended by the law of morality, and the Law enforces that by an action for breach of contract”. 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 reviewed by Frederick Pollock in a edition of Law Quarterly Reviewin which he commented that there was no doubt as to the importance of the decision and that “a notable step has been made in enlarging and clarifying our conception of a citizen’s duty before the law The House of Lords held that Heller owed Hedley Byrne a duty of care as they used a special skill for Hedley Byrne stevensoh because this skill was relied upon by the company although the negligence claim was unsuccessful due to a disclaimer of responsibility included in Heller’s letter.
The application donognue Donoghue was discussed and, while all the judges agreed that it would be taking Donoghue too far to immediately apply it to Hedley ByrneLord Devlin suggested that “what Lord Atkin did was to use his general conception [the neighbour principle] to open up a category of cases giving rise to a special duty” and that the case could incrementally expand the duty of care. Home Office was the culmination of a movement from duties of care being found in specific circumstances to using the neighbour principle as a general duty of care.
The case was appealed to the House of Lords, who held by a majority that the Home Office did owe a duty of care. Lord 19322giving the leading judgment, rejected the argument that there was no precedent for the claim, instead acknowledging “a steady trend towards regarding the law of negligence as depending on principle so that, when a new point emerges, one should ask not whether it is covered by authority but whether recognised principles [from Donoghue ] apply to it”.
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.
In the sole dissenting judgment, Viscount Dilhorne held that the neighbour principle could not have been intended to be applied in all circumstances and that it could only be used to determine to whom a duty of care is owed rather than if one exists. The absence of authority shows that no such duty [to Dorset Yacht Company] now exists.