Case Briefs

Donoghue v Stevenson

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Facts. Edit

On the 26 August, 1928 Donoghue and a friend were at a café in Glasgow (Scotland). Donoghue's companion ordered and paid for her drink. The cafe purchased the product from a distributor that purchased it from Stevenson. The ginger beer came in a Dark bottle, and the contents were not visible from the outside. Donoghue drank some of the contents and her friend lifted the bottle to pour the remainder of the ginger beer into the tumbler. The remains of a snail in a state of decomposition dropped out of the bottle into the tumbler. Donoghue later complained of stomach pain and her doctor diagnosed her as having gastroenteritis and being in a state of severe shock. Donoghue sued Stevenson, the manufacturer of the drink, for negligence. She was unsuccessful at trial and appealed the decision to the House of lords. Finally, her claim was successful.


  1. Does the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff being as there is no contract?


Appeal allowed.


The majority stated that the manufacturer does owe a duty of care to the end consumer, for the purpose of their product is to be consumed, not to be sold to a distributor.

Winterbottom v Wright does not apply in this case, for that case was about breach of contract and this one was not

The absensence of a contract between two parties does not mean that a duty is not owed

Overall, the court found that in cases like this where the manufacturers are manufacturing goods for the eventual consumption of consumers, they do have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that their products are safe for consumption.

You cannot knowingly foresee harming your neighbor. Neighbors are persons who are reasonably foreseeable as being affected by your actions or omissions. A duty of care is not owed to the world at large; it is owed to your neighbors.

Ratio Edit

Manufacturers owe the final consumer of their product a duty of care (at least in the instance where the goods cannot be inspected between manufacturing and consumption). There need not be a contractual relationship, or privity, in order for the final consumer to sue in negligence

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