Business Law

Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932]

By Amit Sheoran (Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur)

Plaintiff  –  Donoghue  

Defendant  –  Steveson 

Jurisdiction – House of lords

Introduction

This case plays a very important role to determine when the duty of care exists in negligence. The duty of care owed by the defendant towards the complainant is the very 1st ingredient without it no cause of action arises. We can say that this case plays a very crucial role in establishing the Doctrine of Negligence. In this case, the rule established that negligence and obliged businesses to observe the duty of care towards their customer in the law of tort.

Facts of the Case

One day Mrs Minchella ( friends of Mrs Donoghue ) bought a ginger- beer that is manufactured by the defendant on 26 januaryn1928. The bottle of Ginger beer was made up of dark opaque glass. Mrs Minchella and her friend believe that the bottle contained nothing other than the aerated water. When Mrs Minchella poured the given beer into a tumbler that contains the ice cream. The pursuer drinks beer from the same tumbler. After that, her friend lifted the ginger beer bottle and start pouring out the remaining beer from the bottle into a tumbler.   She consumed the ginger beer from the bottle and she found a snail in the bottle that was in a very bad and decomposed position. After seen the nauseating sight of the snail she sustained shock and felt the illness. The bottle was fitted with a metal cap on its neck and on one side of the bottle, the label was pasted that contains the name and address of the manufacturer. She filed a  case against the manufacturer of a ginger bottle but she was not able to claim the breach of warranty or contract. 

Issues of the Case

  1. Whether the manufacturer owed a duty of care towards Donoghue?
  2. Was the relationship between both of them sufficient as per law to execute a certain degree of care in carrying out a particular task?
  3. Whether the manufacturer has legal duty towards the purchaser to take reasonable care for that particular article which the buyer has bought is free from any type of defect like not to cause any harm or injury to anyone?

Arguments of the Plaintiff

  1. The plaintiff argued that according to law the manufacturer owed a duty of care for his product towards the buyer of that product.
  2. When a manufacturer puts anything in the market owed a duty to examine the article before the article is put in the market that the article is safe to use or consume.
  3. The manufacturer has to provide his product in such a way that would not allow any snails in the ginger beer.
  4. The manufacturer will be liable if any injury causes to the consumer.

Arguments of Defendant

  1. The defendant said that there is no general rule that the manufacturer owed a duty towards the consumer whom with no contract was signed.
  2. The article was dangerous in itself and the consumer buys it with his choice. So the manufacturer will not be liable.

Judgement

There were 5 lords in this final appeal of the court of Scotland. The judgement was delivered in favour of Donoghue with the majority of 3:2. Lord Tomlin and Buckmaster were in the against of judgement. The ratio decidendi is not straight in this case. The decision has several components like negligence of the manufacturer, there is not any need require to form a contractual relationship to establish the duty of care. And the manufacturer owed a duty towards the consumer who uses their product. Lord Atkin deduced his legal decision with a higher principle of moral like protection of health and interest of the public through reasonable care. In the case of Donoghue versus Steveson, the descent judgement reflects the policies and strategies of traditional values prevailing in the common law system that is delivered by Lord Buckmaster and Tomlin. Buckmaster was opposite to Lord Atkin with the interpretation of the existing case. In the last, we get that negligence made a separate and distinct tort. 

Analysis

To establish the duty towards consumer there is not any need to form a contractual relationship. The burden of proof always lies on the injured party that is injured to show that the defect was caused by using the product of this manufactured company and the defect was caused due to the careless of the manufacturer. The manufacturer owes a duty of care towards the consumer who buys his product. We can also say that this case lays down the principle of the Doctrine of Negligence. 

Categories: Business Law, Case Analysis, Tort Law

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