Donoghue V Stevenson 1932

The case of Donoghue v Stevenson 1932 is very important, as it set a major precedent - the legal concept of duty of care.

In the 1932 case, the judge, Lord Aitken, defined the "neighbour" principle. Lord Aitken stated that a "neighbour was anyone who is so closely and directly affected by my act, or failure to act, that I ought reasonably to have them in my contemplation".

What all of us now have to take from this case is that as we go about our work, our leisure and our life in general, we must think about the safety of people around us (our neighbours). We cannot simply organise sport activities with no regard to the safety of all participants, including spectators. We cannot perform work duties without concern for our fellow workers or our clients. We cannot leave uncovered holes in the footpath, or fail to shut gates where animals are restrained, or leave hazardous chemicals lying around.

If we don't do the right thing, then we will be accused of exhibiting conduct that is below the level deemed to appropriate for responsible members of the community. In other words we are being irresponsible, and if someone gets hurt as a result, then it is our fault.

In the orginal case Donoghue drank a bottle of Ginger Beer manufactured by Stevenson. Having drunk some of the contents of the bottle, she claimed that the remnants of a decomposing snail plopped out into her glass. Donoghue then contracted gastroenteritis and sued Stevenson.

As a result of this case, the legal principle of Duty of Care was formed. All manufacturers of products bear responsibility for any damage that their products cause, even if the the sufferer did not buy the product themselves (e.g. it might have been a present). Furthermore this principle extends not only to manufactured products but also services. Sport and recreation organisations provide services and must ensure that such services are safe for all the participants.


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