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Donoghue V Stevenson Essay


On August 26th 1928, Donoghue (plaintiff) and a friend were at a case in Glasgow, Scotland. Her friend ordered / purchased a bottle of ginger beer for Donoghue. The bottle was in an opaque bottle (dark glass material) as Donoghue was not aware of the contents. After, Donoghue drank some and her friend lifted the bottle to pour the remainder of the ginger beer into the glass. A remains of a snail in a state of decomposition dropped out of the bottle into the glass. Donoghue later complained of stomach pain and was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and being in a state of severe shock by a doctor. Donoghue subsequently took legal action seeking £500 damages against the manufacturer of the ginger beer, Stevenson (Defendant). She was unsuccessful at trial and appealed the decision to the House of Lords. Issue

1. Is there liability in negligence for injury caused by another in the absence of a contract? 2. Does the manufacturer of a product owe duty of care to the consumer to take reasonable care that the product is free from defect?


The issue was complex because her friend had purchased the drink, and that a contract had not been breached. So Donoghue’s lawyers had to claim that Stevenson had a duty of care to his consumers and that he had caused injury through negligence. The leading judgement, delivered by Lord Atkin in 1932, concluded that Stevenson should be responsible for the well-being of individuals who consumes their product.

Among the reasons given by the judges that is related to the issues above: 1. Le Lievre v Gould established that “under certain circumstances, one man may owe a duty of care to another, even though there is no contract between them” 2. Negligence claims can be brought against people who owe you a duty of care. 3. A manufacturer has a duty of care to the ultimate consumer if either the consumer or the distributors he received the product from had a reasonable chance to inspect it. Firstly, that negligence is a different tort. A plaintiff can take civil action against a defendant, if the respondent’s negligence causes the plaintiff injury or loss of belongings. Previously the plaintiff had to demonstrate some contractual arrangement 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 however Atkin’s judgement established that Stevenson was still responsible for the integrity of his product.

‘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’ Furthermore, manufacturers have a duty of care to consumers.

According to Lord Atkin’s ratio decendi, “a manufacturer of products, which he sells to reach the ultimate consumer in the form in which they left him owes a duty to the consumer to take reasonable care”. This precedent has evolved and expanded to form the basis of laws that protect consumers from contaminated or faulty goods. These protections began as common law but many have since been codified in legislation, such as the Trade Practices Act.

Thirdly, Lord Atkin’s controversial ‘neighbour principle’. Here Atkin raised the question of which people may be directly affected by our actions, our conduct or things we manufacture. “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: persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought to have them in (mind) when I am I am [considering these] acts or omissions.”

Lord Atkin: “The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour. 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? Persons who are 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.


I agree with the judgement of the issue that, the manufacturer does owe a duty of care to future consumers. Manufacturers are aware that production has the overall goal of its product that is to be consumed, and not simply to be purchased by a distributors or retailers. Therefore, taking into account all liabilities and reasonable care of what the product can cause to civilians. The reason being, that there is a liability of negligence present by the injury of another because in layman’s term, action conducted or carried forward must be foreseen and taken into consideration that it can harm society involved indirectly.

Firstly, goods which are primarily purchased, used or consumed for personal, domestic or household purposes which in this case Donoghue consumed a ginger beer in the café and suffered injuries. Stevenson is liable for its product manufactured and as the plaintiff had suffered injury due to the consumption of the product it is due to the failure on the compliance to safety of goods supply and it is believe to fail its compliance on the rule ‘love you neighbour’ / duty of care. Second the manufacturer and the retailer included a price which consist of consideration in any form whether direct or indirect in relation to acquisition, where in this case the defendant sold the ginger beer that was consumed by Donoghue.

In my opinion, a rule of safety standards according to Consumer Protection Act 1999 Section 18-23 should be carried should be taken into consideration by the defendant as it bring a better quality to goods served. As Stevenson did not take account of its product quality, its goods (ginger beer) contained a decomposed snail piece resulting in plaintiff injury ‘gastroenteritis and being in a state of severe shock’. Hence, manufactures owe a duty of care to Donoghue because Stevenson did not comply on the quality of the goods sold.

Moreover, as application on this case to real life reason are our work, relaxation and our life in general, we must think about the well-being of people around us (our neighbours). We cannot simply plan out activities with no regard to the safety of all participants, including civilians. For example, one person cannot execute work duties without concern for our fellow colleagues or our clients. We cannot leave uncovered holes in the track, or fail to shut gates where animals are restrained, or leave hazardous chemicals lying around. In a nutshell, if we don’t do the right thing as level deemed to be appropriate to the people involved, then we will be accused of exhibiting irresponsibility. Overall, in this case where the manufacturers or suppliers in respect of selling goods for the eventual consumption to consumers, have a duty to take reasonable care to consumers / “neighbours” to ensure that their products are safe for consumption and to take full responsibility in respect of a guarantees in the supply of goods.


Donoghue v Stevenson (1932).
Taylor, Martin R. (2008). “The Most Famous Litigant”. Donoghue v Stevenson Digital Resources. Scottish Council of Law Reporting. Retrieved 8 September 2012. SCLR – Resources – Donoghue v. Stevenson Case Report. 2015. SCLR – Resources – Donoghue v. Stevenson Case Report. [ONLINE] Available at:

http://www.scottishlawreports.org.uk/resources/dvs/donoghue-v-stevenson-report.html. [Accessed 06 January 2015].
Donoghue v Stevenson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2015. Donoghue v Stevenson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donoghue_v_Stevenson. [Accessed 06 January 2015].

Donoghue v Stevenson – Case Brief Wiki. 2015. Donoghue v Stevenson – Case Brief Wiki. [ONLINE] Available at: http://casebrief.wikia.com/wiki/Donoghue_v_Stevenson. [Accessed 06 January 2015].

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