Donoghue v Stevenson Case Summary 1932

donoghue-vs-stevenson-case-summary

Donoghue v Stevenson is a landmark case explaining negligence, res ipsa loquitur, duty of care, neighbour principle.

Facts of Donogue v Stevenson:

1. Plaintiff Mrs. Donoghue’s friend bought ginger beer from Minchella’s café in Paisley.

2. Beer Bottle + It’s cap = Opaque. Her friend poured beer and drank. While refilling the glass again, she was shocked to see decomposed remains of a snail in the drink.

3. She suffered from shock and severe gastro-enteritis because of the nauseating sight and of the impurities she had already consumed.

4. They labeled the bottle with the defendant’s name; and that the defender sealed the bottle with a metal cap that was opaque.

Contentions:

  1. Plaintiff claimed Defendant to be held liable for NEGLIGENCE, as he was negligent towards his duty to make system to prevent snails from entering the bottles and inspect bottles which caused an accident.

Legal Issues:

Does a manufacturer of ginger beer bottles owe a duty of care to the end consumer while he didn’t directly sell it to him, but only via a distributor?

Ratio by Court in Donoghue vs Stevenson:

Lord Mcmillan and Lord Atkin, House of Lords’

Does the manufacturer of the drink sold by him to a distributor, in circumstances which prevent the distributor or the ultimate purchaser or consumer from discovering by inspection any defect, under any legal duty to the ultimate consumer to take reasonable care?

In NEGLIGENCE, the cardinal principle of liability is that the party complained of should owe to the party complaining a duty of care and that the party complaining should be able to prove that he has suffered damage in consequence of a breach of that duty.

As per Lord Macmillan, the manufacturer owes a duty to those whom he intends to consume his products.

Since, in these types of cases, there is no presumption of negligence, therefore, res ipsa loquitor will not fit here.

Negligence must be averred (to allege) and proved by the plaintiff against the defendant. Lord Atkin in Donoghue v Stevenson, gave neighbour principle which said that people need to be very careful not to hurt others who may be affected as expected by their actions or carelessness.

A manufacturer of products, which he sells in such a form as to show that he intends them to reach the ultimate consumer in the form in which they left him with no reasonable possibility of intermediate examination, and knowing that he has a duty of care and he avoided it, will cause injury to the consumers’ life, owes a duty of care to the customer.

IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS

Negligence means that the defendant owed the duty to take care towards the plaintiff, then the duty was breached by the defendant and, because of the breach, the plaintiff actually suffered the damage (legal injury).

Res ipsa loquitur means the shift of the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant by just showing the preponderance of probabilities, i.e. by establishing the prima facie case.

Duty of care means a duty owed by the defendant towards the plaintiff. Also, the plaintiff must prove that circumstances gave rise to a duty of care and the defendant actually owed the duty based on the facts of each case.

Lord Atkin’s Neighbour Principle means that you must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.

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Om Ram

Om Ram

Om Ram is currently a 2nd-year LL.B. student at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. Previously he did Life Sciences from SVC, Delhi University. He shows his life journey by making Legal Vlogs on a YouTube channel named 'Om Ram'. He has interests in Law, Science & Film making. Some of his notable work related to photography and other interests can be seen on his Instagram. He also has a channel named 'Law Planet' where he along with his sister makes videos to make people aware of laws and their rights.
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