Donoghue V Stevenson

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The fact in Donoghue V. Stevenson[1] was that the appellant drank a ginger beer that was bought by her friend in a café and she drank part of it from her cup. Her friend poured the rest and a decomposed snail was seen floating on the ginger beer.

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The nauseating sight coupled with the fact that the appellant had drank from it caused her shock and severe gastro-enteritis. She brought an action and the issue before the court was whether the manufacturer of an article of drink sold by him to distributor in the circumstances which prevent the customer/consumer from discovering by inspection any defect was under any legal duty to the customer/consumer. In searching for a principle of law, Lord Atkin used the comparative simplicity rule stating that the court should sought the duty which is common to all the cases where liability was established and base it on logical element common to the cases where it was found to exist[2]. Lord Atkin reinstated the general test for damages for negligence to be that the applicant must show that he had been injured by breach of duty owed by the defendant to take reasonable care to avoid such injury. This duty arises in circumstances where there was proximity and the defendant could reasonably foresee that the plaintiff would be affected by his negligence. Lord Atkin’s ‘foresee-ability’ test was based on the premise that “people are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought to reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the act or omission which are called in question”[3]. These were the principles that was common to all the cases decided and which Lord Atkins considered. In Le Lievre V. Gould[4] and Heaven V. Pender[5], the courts held that there was a duty to take reasonable care to another even in the absence of contract, where there is proximity to other person or that other person’s goods that he ought not to cause injury. This usually occur where A was so close to B or B’s goods that he ought to take reasonable care not to cause injury to B or B’s goods. These same simple rules was evinced in the judgment of the court in the case of George V. Skivington[6], where the court held that there was a duty on the manufacturer to exercise reasonable care to the purchasers. It can be deduced that the duty of care exist where there is proximity or where it can be shown that the defendant can reasonable know that the plaintiff would suffer injuries by his failure to take reasonable care. The test laid down in the Donoghue’s case was that a liability in negligence for breach of duty of care would suffice if there was proximity between the defendant’s action and the injuries was cause as a result of failure to take reasonable care.

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