Once upon a time, there was a woman by the name of Mrs Donoghue. One day, Mrs Donoghue and her friend went to a cafe, where her friend purchased her an ice cream and ginger beer. Sitting down to enjoy a nice catch up, Ms Donoghue took a large gulp of the beverage contained in the dark bottle. She decided to share with her friend, who poured the remainder of the ginger beer into a clear tumbler. Along with the rest of the liquid, came a decomposed snail. Undoubtedly, both parties were shocked and horrified at what they saw, and more importantly, what they had consumed. Days later, Mrs Donoghue fell ill with gastroenteritis and shock.

Sounds like a made-up story, right? This case was in fact a landmark decision in English Tort Law which established the foundation of negligence, called Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562. The case involved the defendant, Stevenson, who was the manufacturer of the ginger beer, and Donoghue, the woman who consumed the ginger beer with the decomposed snail in it.

Mrs Donoghue commenced legal action against the defendant, but the idea of success seemed slim – there was no breach of contract as she did not purchase the drink, and there was no way to prove that Stevenson had sold the woman a faulty product. However, her solicitor argued that the defendant owed a duty of care to his consumers. This was, to take reasonable care to ensure that his products were safe for consumption.

The case was held before the House of Lords in 1932 where Lord Atkin proclaimed, “and with the knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation of putting of the products will result in an injury to the consumers life or property, owes a duty to the consumer to take that reasonable care.”

The threshold of duty of care and reasonable care is maintained in Australian common law today and is most common in the area of personal injury and public liability. If you find that you have suffered an injury due to the other party being in breach of their duty of care, you may be able to claim compensation under the law of public liability.

If you have questions, we at Everingham Solomons can assist you because, Helping You is Our Business.

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