DONOGHUE V. STEVENSON, CASE ANALYSIS BY DEVANSHI SAXENA

DONOGHUE V. STEVENSON

Jurisdiction: House of Lords

Citation      :(1932 ) UKHL 100, 1932 SC (HL) 31, (1932) AC 562

Bench         :Lord Buckmaster, Lord Atkin, Lord Tomlin, Lord Thankerton and  Lord Macmillan

Facts

On August 26, 1928, Mr. Mincella bought a ginger beer for her friend Mrs. Donoghue, manufactured by the defendant. The bottle of beer had a dark opaque glass. The bottle contained remains of snails, unknown to the consumer, and the pursuer and her friend drank the contents of beer. While pouring the contents, the state of decomposition became known to the consumer.

Consequently, the consumer sustained shock and illness hereinafter condescended on. She eventually commenced the proceedings against the manufacturers. However, she couldn’t claim to bring charges through breach of warranty as she was not a party of the contract.

Issues

  1. Whether or not the manufacturer owed a duty of care to Donoghue?
  2. Was there any relationship between the plaintiff and defendant that required to exercise a certain degree of care as per law?
  3. Does the manufacture owe a duty of care to the purchaser of the product or the ultimate consumer?

Judgement

In A, The judgement was decided in favour of the defendant, Mr. Stevenson that there was no legal duty of care owed to Mrs. Donoghue with a majority of 3:2.In Lord of house, Lord Atkin held that the Stevenson was responsible for the well-being of individuals who consumed the product manufactured.

Some of the legal principals or precedents that were outcomes of the judgement-

  1. Negligence: Firstly, the House of Lords ruling affirmed that negligence is a tort. A plaintiff can take civil action against a respondent if the respondent’s negligence causes the plaintiff loss or harm to the property. Earlier, the plaintiff had to demonstrate some contractual provision for negligence to be proven, such as the sale of an item or an agreement to provide a service. Since Donoghue had not purchased the drink, she could prove no contractual arrangement with Stevenson yet Lord Atkin’s judgement established that Stevenson was still accountable for the integrity of his product.

 

  1. Duty of care: Secondly, the case established that manufacturers have a duty of care for their consumers or users towards their products. According to Lord Atkin’s ratio decendi, “a manufacturer of products, which he sells to reach the eventual consumer in the form in which they left him to owe a duty to the consumer to take appropriate care”. This precedent has evolved and now forms the basis of laws that protect consumers from adulterated or faulty goods. This preservation began as common law but many have since been codified in legislation, such as the Trade Practices Act (Commonwealth, 1974).

 

  1. Neighbour principle. Thirdly, the Donoghue v. Stevenson case give rise to Lord Atkin’s contentious “neighbour principle”, which extended the tort of negligence beyond the tortfeasor and the immediate person. It uplifted the question of exactly which people might be affected by negligent actions. In this case, she had not purchased the ginger beer bottle but had received it as a gift; she was a “neighbour” rather than a party to the contract. Atkin said of this principle: “You should take appropriate care to avoid acts or omissions which you can moderately predict would be likely to injure your neighbour.

Analysis

The case has a vital role in the determination of when a duty of case exists in negligence. The existence of duty of care which is owed to, by the defendant to the complainant is very first ingredient without which, no cause of action arises. It can be said that this case has played an important role in the history and growth of tort of negligence. The test was formulated by Lord Atkin and it is generally referred to as the “neighbour test” or “neighbour principle”. The ruling of the case led to the establishment of the civil law tort of negligence and obliged business to observe a duty of care towards their customers.

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