Grant v Australian Knitting Mills [1936] AC 85

Key points

  • Manufacturers are liable in negligence for injury caused to the ultimate consumer by latent defects in their products
  • The mere unproven possibility of tampering by a third party between the time at which a product was shipped by a manufacturer and the time at which it reached the consumer does not erase the duty of care of the manufacturer to the ultimate consumer in relation to latent defects

Facts

  • C bought 2 pairs of long underwear which were manufactured by D
  • C got dermatitis from the excess sulphite in the underwear and almost died
  • C sued for negligence
  • It was argued for Ds that since the underwear were in paper packets there was a possibility of intermediate tampering with the goods before they reached the user unlike with the sealed bottle in Donoghue

Held (Privy Council)

  • C was entitled to compensation for negligence
  • The mere possibility of tampering in the product was not enough to absolve D of liability

Lord Wright

Duty of care

  • The duty of care in Donoghue arises when the “the injured party was one of a class for whose use, in the contemplation and intention of the makers, the article was issued to the world, and the article was used by that party in the state in which it was prepared and issued without it being changed in any way and without there being any warning of, or means of detecting, the hidden danger”: p. 103

Latent defect: p. 105

  • The duty of care in Donoghue arises where the defect is latent and unknown to the consumer, as otherwise there is no causation as the consumer acted on his own volition to incur the risk
  • In this case the excess sulphite was also a latent defect like the remains of the snail in the opaque bottle
  • Nothing happened between the making of the garments and their being worn to change their condition

Possibility of tampering: p. 106

  • The mere possibility of tampering is not enough to absolve D of liability
  • However, there must be sufficient evidence that the article reached the consumer subject to the same defect it had when it left the manufacturer
  • In this case there is ample evidence