Wikiversity Law Reports/Donoghue v Stevenson

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Donoghue v Stevenson

[1932] AC 562, [1932] UKHL 100, 1932 SC (HL) 31, [1931] UKHL 3
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This is not the original snail!
An example of ginger beer.


This case defined the modern concept of negligence, by establishing circumstances in which one party owes a duty of care to another party even if there are intervening third parties involved.

House of Lords


Mrs Donoghue consumed some ginger beer, from an opaque bottle, bought by her friend. She poured the remainder onto ice cream. The bottle was found to contain a decomposed snail. Mrs Donoghue commenced a personal injury claim against the beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson.


The beer manufacturer owed a duty of care to Mrs Donoghue because she was the consumer of the ginger beer, and it was irrelevant that she had not bought the bottle. In particular, Lord Atkin stated that:

The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer's question "Who is my neighbour?" receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I 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.