Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932)
This famous case established the civil law tort of negligence and obliged manufacturers to have a duty of care towards their customers. The events of the complaint took place in Scotland on Sunday evening on 26th August 1928, when Ms May Donoghue (Appellant) was given a bottle of ginger beer, purchased by a friend. The bottle was later discovered to contain a decomposing snail. Since the bottle was not of clear glass, Donoghue was not aware of the snail until she had consumed most of its contents. She later fell ill and was diagnosed with gastroenteritis by a doctor. Donoghue subsequently took legal action against the manufacturer of the ginger beer, Stevenson. She lodged a writ in the Court of Sessions (Scotland’s highest civil court) seeking £500 damages. Many themes are woven into the fabric of of this case. Some of these themes are: The enormous effect that ‘judge-made’ or common law has on our daily lives; The difference between breach of a duty owed under a contract and the general duty of care owed to one’s ‘neighbour’; The concept of product liability.
FACTS OF THE CASE
On the evening of Sunday 26 August 1928, during the Glasgow Trades Holiday, Donoghue took a train to Paisley, Renfrewshire, located seven miles west of Glasgow; the journey would have taken around thirty minutes. In Paisley, she went to the Wellmeadow Café. At approximately 20:50 a friend,who may have travelled with Donoghue, was with her and ordered a pear and ice for herself and a Scotsman ice cream float, a mix of ice cream and ginger beer, for Donoghue. The owner of the café, Francis Minghella, brought over a tumbler of ice cream and poured ginger beer on it from a brown and opaque bottle labelled "D. Stevenson, Glen Lane, Paisley". Donoghue drank some of the ice cream float. However, when Donoghue's friend poured the remaining ginger beer into the tumbler, a decomposed snail also floated out of the bottle....
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