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Case Summary : DONOGHUE V STEVENSON [1932] SC (HL) 31 , [1931] UKHL 3 , [1932] UKHL 100, [1932] AC 562

Donoghue v Stevenson also known as the ‘snail in the bottle case’  is a Scottish case which turned out to be very significant in framing law of tort and doctrine of negligence mainly with respect to English law.


On August 26 1928, Mrs Donoghue’s companion ordered and paid for her bottle of ginger-beer from Wellmeadow Café1 in Paisley. The bottle was opaque in colour and sealed so the snail could not be detected until Mrs Donoghue had already consumed a large part of the ginger beer. When remainder of the contents was poured into a tumbler , the decomposed remains of a snail floated out causing her alleged shock and severe gastro-enteritis as the consequences of the incident .The bottle, which contained the decomposed remains of a snail, was manufactured by the defendant Mr Stevenson.

Donoghue could not sue Stevenson for breach of warranty of a contract because she had not purchased the drink herself, hence not making her party to the contract . Therefore , Donoghue’s council raised the matter as breach of duty of care to Stevenson’s consumer that has caused injury through negligence.


Does the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff being as there is no contractual term ?


Appeal allowed , It was held that manufacturers owe a duty of care towards the final consumer of their product specially in the scenerio where the goods cannot be inspected between manufacturing and consumption. It was also decided that there need not be a privity , or contractual relationship , in order for the end consumer to sue in negligence.The outcomes of Donoghue v. Stevenson established several legal principles and precedents such as negligence , duty of care, neighbor principle.

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