Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562

Key points

  • Created the tort of negligence and the concept of duty of care
  • Manufacturers owe a duty of care in tort to ultimate consumers of their product, even in the absence of a contract between them

Facts

  • D manufacturer sold ginger beer in opaque bottles to a retailer
  • Retailer resold it to A, who gave it to C
  • C alleged that she became seriously ill and sued D for negligence

Held (House of Lords)

  • D was liable to C in negligence
  • D owed a duty of care to C in tort which was breached

Lord Atkin

  • We owe a duty to “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that 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”

Lord Macmillian

  • The party injured need not be party to a contract that was breached
  • “The categories of negligence are never closed”
  • “This conception of legal responsibility may develop in adaptation to altering social conditions and standards”

Commentary

  • The quote from Lord Atkin is referred to as the neighbour principle, which provides for a general duty of care
  • Prior to Donoghue v Stevenson, tort law consisted of specific torts where a duty of care is recognised, such as property torts, the tort of trespass etc.
  • Donoghue v Stevenson changed the law of tort by creating the tort of negligence which has a general duty of care
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