Donoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson: HL 26 May 1932

Decomposed Snail in Ginger Beer Bottle – Liability

The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a friend, so she was unable to rely upon any contract.
Held: The English and the Scots law on the subject are identical. The pursuer was entitled to recover damages for negligence. The manufacturer intended that the contents be consumed without the opportunity first to examine them, and unless reasonable care was taken in the preparation a consumer may suffer injury. The cases of George v. Skivington and `the dicta in Heaven v. Pender ‘should be buried so securely that their perturbed spirits shall no longer vex the law.’ (Majority) The nature of an article ‘may very well call for different degrees of care’. ‘the person dealing with [an inherently dangerous article] may well contemplate persons as being within the sphere of his duty to take care who would not be sufficiently proximate with less dangerous goods; so that not only the degree of care but the range of persons to whom the duty is owed may be extended.’
Lord Atkin said: ‘. . 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.’


Atkin, Thankerton, MacMillan, Buckmaster Tomlin LL


[1932] AC 562, [1932] SC (HL) 31, [1932] ScLT 317, [1932] All ER Rep 1, (1932) 101 LJPC 119, (1932) 147 LT 281, [1932] SLT 317, (1932) 48 TLR 494, (1932) 37 Com Cas 350, [1932] UKHL 100, [1932] Sol Jo 396, [1932] WN 139, [1932] SC 31, (1933) 4 DLR 337, 533 CA 47






CitedLe Lievre v Gould CA 6-Feb-1893
Mortgagees of the interest of a builder under a building agreement, advanced money to him from time to time, relying upon certificates given by a surveyor as to stages reached. The surveyor was not appointed by the mortgagees, and there was no . .
ApprovedGeorge v Skivington 1869
There was an injury to the wife, from a hair wash purchased under a contract of sale with the husband.
Held: The wife had a good cause of action. There was a duty in the vendor to use ordinary care in compounding the article sold, and that . .
Dicta ConsideredHeaven v Pender, Trading As West India Graving Dock Company CA 30-Jul-1883
Duty Arising to Use Ordinary Care and Skill
The plaintiff was a painter. His employer engaged to repaint a ship, and the defendant erected staging to support the work. The staging collapsed because one of the ropes was singed and weakened, injuring the plaintiff.
Held: The defendant had . .
OverruledMullen v Barr and Co Ld, and M’Gowan v Barr and Co Ld 1929
A mouse was found in a bottle. The buyer claimed damages for the shock: ‘In a case like the present, where the goods of the defenders are widely distributed throughout Scotland, it would seem little short of outrageous to make them responsible to . .
CitedLongmeid v Holliday 1851
A defective lamp was sold to a man whose wife was injured by its explosion. The seller of the lamp, against whom the action was brought, was not the manufacturer.
Held: No general duty of care was owed by a manufacturer of a lamp to a user.
DistinguishedLangridge v Levy ExP 1836
A man sold a gun which he knew to be dangerous for the use of the purchaser’s son. The gun exploded in the son’s hands.
Held: The son had a right of action in tort against the gunmaker, but, Parke B said: ‘We should pause before we made a . .
CitedWinterbottom v Wright 1842
Owing to negligence in the construction of a carriage it broke down. A third party sought damages for injuries which he alleged were due to negligence in the work.
Held: The doctrine of privity of contract precluded actions in tort by third . .
CitedEarl v Lubbock CA 1905
The plaintiff was injured when a wheel came off a van which he was driving for his employer, and which it was the duty of the defendant, under contract with the employer, to keep in repair. The county court judge and the Divisional Court both hold . .
CitedBlacker v Lake and Elliot Ld HL 1912
A brazing lamp which, by exploding owing to a latent defect, injured a person other than the purchaser of it, and the vendor was held not liable to the party injured. The House considered earlier cases on liability for defectively manufactured . .
CitedBlackmore v Bristol and Exeter Ry Co 1858
. .
CitedCollis v Selden 1868
The defendant installed a chandelier in a public house. It fell and injured the plaintiff.
Held: There was nothing to say that the defendant had any knowledge that the plaintiff, as opposed to members of the public in general, would enter the . .
CitedBates v Batey & Ld 1913
The defendants, who manufactured ginger beer, were held not liable to a consumer (who had purchased from a retailer one of their bottles) for injury occasioned by the bottle bursting as the result of a defect of which the defendants did not know, . .
CitedThomas v Winchester 1852
(New York) A chemist carelessly issued poison in answer to a request for a harmless drug, and he was held responsible to a third party injured by his neglect. . .
CitedMacPherson v Buick Motor Co 1916
(New York Court of Appeal) A manufacturer of a defective motor-car was held liable for damages at the instance of a third party. A motor-car might reasonably be regarded as a dangerous article: ‘There is no claim that the defendant know of the . .
CitedCunnington v Great Northern Ry Co 1883
. .
CitedHawkins v Smith QBD 1896
A dock labourer in the employ of the dock company was injured by a defective sack which had been hired by the consignees from the defendant, who knew the use to which it was to be put, and had been provided by the consignees for the use of the dock . .
CitedElliott v Hall QBD 1885
The defendants, colliery owners, consigned coal to the plaintiff’s employers, coal merchants, in a truck hired by the defendants from a wagon company. The plaintiff was injured in the course of unloading the coal by reason of the defective condition . .
CitedOliver v Saddler and Co HL 1929
Stevedores had been employed to unload a cargo of maize in bags. They provided the rope slings by which the cargo was raised to the ship’s deck by their own men using the ship’s tackle, and then transported to the dockside by the shore porters, of . .
CitedGrote v Chester and Holyhead Ry CEC 1848
The defendants had constructed a bridge over the Dee on their railway and had licensed the use of the bridge to the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway to carry passengers over it, and had so negligently constructed the bridge that the plaintiff, a . .
CitedDixon v Bell 18-Jun-1816
The defendant had left a loaded gun at his lodgings and sent his servant, a mulatto girl aged about thirteen or fourteen, for the gun, asking the landlord to remove the priming and give it her. The landlord did remove the priming and gave it to the . .
CitedHodge and Sons v Anglo-American Oil Co 1922
The plaintiffs, London barge repairers claimed after an explosion on the Anglo-American Oil Company’s oil tank barge Warwick, when she was being repaired by the plaintiffs, to whom she had been sent for that purpose by the defendants. As a result of . .
CitedBrass v Maitland 1856
There is an implied warranty from a consignor to the carrier as to the non-dangerous nature of what is to be carried. . .
CitedDominion Natural Gas Co Ltd v Collins 1909
The defendants had installed a gas apparatus to provide natural gas on the premises of a railway company. They had installed a regulator to control the pressure and their men negligently made an escape-valve discharge into the building instead of . .
CitedFarrant v Barnes 1862
A duty of care from a consignor to a carrier’s servant that the goods to be transported can be safely carried, is owed independently of any contract. . .
CitedCaledonian Ry Co v Mulholland or Warwick HL 1898
The appellant company were held not liable for injuries caused by a defective brake on a coal wagon conveyed by the railway company to a point in the transit where their contract ended, and where the wagons were taken over for haulage for the last . .
CitedCavalier v Pope HL 22-Jun-1906
The wife of the tenant of a house let unfurnished sought to recover from the landlord damages for personal injuries arising from the non-repair of the house, on the ground that the landlord had contracted with her husband to repair the house.
CitedEmmens v Pottle CA 1885
A subordinate distributor, here a vendor of newspapers, can plead the common law defence to defamation, of innocent dissemination.
Held: The vendor was prima facie liable, and therefore had to demonstrate the defence to avoid liability. He . .
CitedGordon v M’Hardy 1903
The pursuer sought to recover damages from a retail grocer on account of the death of his son by ptomaine poisoning, caused by eating tinned salmon purchased from the defender. The pursuer averred that the tin, when sold, was dented, but he did not . .
CitedBottomley v Bannister CA 1932
The deceased man, the father of the plaintiff, had taken an unfurnished house from the defendants, who had installed a gas boiler with a special gas-burner which if properly regulated required no flue. The deceased and his wife were killed by fumes . .
CitedWhite v Steadman 1913
Lush J said: ‘a person who has the means of knowledge and only does not know that the animal or chattel which he supplies is dangerous because he does not take ordinary care to avail himself of his opportunity of knowledge is in precisely the same . .
CitedClelland v Robb 1911
If a man has no duty or obligation of diligence, he cannot be charged with negligence. . .
CitedKemp and Dougall v Darngavil Coal Co 1909
A man cannot be charged with negligence if he has no obligation to exercise diligence. . .

Cited by:

CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police CA 31-May-1991
The defendant policed a football match at which many people died. The plaintiffs, being relatives and friends of the deceased, inter alia suffered nervous shock having seen the events either from within the ground, or from outside or at home on . .
CitedK v the Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 31-May-2002
The applicant sought damages from the defendant who had released from custody pending deportation a man convicted of violent sexual crimes and who had then raped her. She appealed against a strike out of her claim. She had been refused information . .
CitedBritish Railways Board v Herrington HL 16-Feb-1972
Land-owner’s Possible Duty to Trespassers
The plaintiff, a child had gone through a fence onto the railway line, and been badly injured. The Board knew of the broken fence, but argued that they owed no duty to a trespasser.
Held: Whilst a land-owner owes no general duty of care to a . .
CitedDorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office HL 6-May-1970
A yacht was damaged by boys who had escaped from the supervision of prison officers in a nearby Borstal institution. The boat owners sued the Home Office alleging negligence by the prison officers.
Held: Any duty of a borstal officer to use . .
DistinguishedCandler v Crane Christmas and Co CA 15-Dec-1950
Though the accounts of the company in which the plaintiff had invested had been carelessly prepared and gave a wholly misleading picture of the state of the company, the plaintiff could not recover damages. A false statement, carelessly, as . .
CitedStovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
CitedBellefield Computer Services Limited, Unigate Properties Limited; Unigate Dairies Limited; Unigate (Uk) Limited; Unigate Dairies (Western) Limited v E Turner and Sons Limited Admn 28-Jan-2000
The Defendant builders constructed a steel building to be used as, inter alia. a dairy. The original owners sold it to the appellants. A fire spread from the storage area to the rest of the dairy and caused much damage. The Builders, had they . .
CitedDutton v Bognor Regis Urban District Council CA 1972
The court considered the liability in negligence of a Council whose inspector had approved a building which later proved defective.
Held: The Council had control of the work and with such control came a responsibility to take care in . .
AppliedTate and Lyle Industries Ltd v Greater London Council HL 24-Mar-1983
The plaintiff had constructed and used two jetties, and dredged a channel down to the Thames for their use. The Council constructed two terminals nearby, the result of which was to cause a build up of silt blocking the channel.
Held: The . .
CitedDennis v Charnwood Borough Council CA 1983
The respondent approved plans for a new house. The raft foundation was inadequate and serious cracks developed. The authority appealed a finding of negligence in having approved defective plans.
Held: The appeal failed. The authority had a . .
CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
CitedThe Attorney General v Hartwell PC 23-Feb-2004
PC (The British Virgin Islands) A police officer had taken the police revolver, and used it to shoot the claimant. It was alleged that the respondent police force were vicariously liable for his acts and also . .
AppliedBurfitt v A and E Kille 1939
A shopkeeper in Minehead sold a ‘blank cartridge pistol’ to a twelve year old boy. Later, when the boy fired the pistol in the air, the plaintiff was injured by a tiny piece of copper going into his eye.
Held: The duty of care was owed not . .
CitedBolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee QBD 1957
Professional to use Skilled Persons Ordinary Care
Negligence was alleged against a doctor.
Held: McNair J directed the jury: ‘Where some special skill is exercised, the test for negligence is not the test of the man on the Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test . .
CitedBinod Sutradhar v Natural Environment Research Council CA 20-Feb-2004
The defendant council had carried out research into a water supply in India in the 1980s. The claimant drank the water, and claimed damages for having consumed arsenic in it.
Held: There is a close link between the tests in law for proximity . .
CitedBlake v Galloway CA 25-Jun-2004
The claimant was injured whilst playing about with other members of his band throwing sticks at each other. The defendant appealed against a denial of his defence on non fit injuria.
Held: The horseplay in which the five youths were engaged . .
CitedHedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
CitedOld Gate Estates Ltd v Toplis and Harding and Russell 1939
The case of Donoghue -v- Stevenson was restricted in its application to cases of negligence causing damage to life, limb or health. . .
CitedMcTear v Imperial Tobacco Ltd OHCS 31-May-2005
The pursuer sought damages after her husband’s death from lung cancer. She said that the defenders were negligent in having continued to sell him cigarettes knowing that they would cause this.
Held: The action failed. The plaintiff had not . .
CitedWatson v Fram Reinforced Concrete Co (Scotland) Ltd HL 1960
A workman had been injured through the breaking of a defective part in the machine with which he was working. He brought an action of damages against his employers, and later convened as second defenders the manufacturers of the machine, who had . .
SummarisedLondon Graving Dock Co Ltd v Horton HL 1951
An experienced welder had for a month been carrying out work on a ship as an employee of sub-contractors engaged by ship-repairers in occupation of the ship. He was injured, without negligence on his part, owing to the inadequacy of certain staging, . .
CitedMurphy v Brentwood District Council HL 26-Jul-1990
Anns v Merton Overruled
The claimant appellant was a house owner. He had bought the house from its builders. Those builders had employed civil engineers to design the foundations. That design was negligent. They had submitted the plans to the defendant Council for approval . .
CitedJolley v Sutton London Borough Council HL 24-May-2000
An abandoned boat had been left on its land and not removed by the council. Children tried to repair it, jacked it up, and a child was injured when it fell. It was argued for the boy, who now appealed dismissal of his claim by the Court of Appeal, . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
CitedLMS International Ltd and others v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd and others TCC 30-Sep-2005
The claimants sought damages after their premises were destroyed when a fire started in the defendants neighbouring premises which contained substantial volumes of styrofoam. They alleged this was an unnatural use of the land.
Held: To . .
CitedFrench and others v Chief Constable of Sussex Police CA 28-Mar-2006
The claimants sought damages for psychiatric injury. They were police officers who had been subject to unsuccessful proceedings following a shooting of a member of the public by their force.
Held: The claim failed: ‘these claimants have no . .
CitedJain and Another v Trent Strategic Health Authority CA 22-Nov-2007
The claimant argued that the defendant owed him a duty of care as proprietor of a registered nursing home in cancelling the registration of the home under the 1984 Act. The authority appealed a finding that it owed such a duty.
Held: The . .
CitedLeakey v The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty CA 31-Jul-1979
Natural causes were responsible for soil collapsing onto neighbouring houses in Bridgwater.
Held: An occupier of land owes a general duty of care to a neighbouring occupier in relation to a hazard occurring on his land, whether such hazard is . .
CitedD Pride and Partners (A Firm) and Others v Institute for Animal Health and Others QBD 31-Mar-2009
The claimants sought damages after the loss of business when the defendants’ premises were the source of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The organism had escaped from their premises via a broken drain.
Held: Much of the damage claimed . .
ExplainedBolton v Stone HL 10-May-1951
The plaintiff was injured by a prodigious and unprecedented hit of a cricket ball over a distance of 100 yards. He claimed damages in negligence.
Held: When looking at the duty of care the court should ask whether the risk was not so remote . .
CitedWhippey v Jones CA 8-Apr-2009
The claimant was running along a river embankment. A large dog owned by the appellant, taking it for a walk, was off the leash. It ran out at the claimant who broke his ankle falling into the river. The defendant appealed against a finding that he . .
CitedSmith v Scott ChD 1973
It is not open to the court to reshape the law relating to the rights and liabilities of landowners by applying the principle of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 and thus saying that a landowner owed a duty of care to his neighbour when selecting . .
CitedWoodland v Essex County Council CA 9-Mar-2012
The claimant had been injured in a swimming pool during a lesson. The lesson was conducted by outside independent contractors. The claimant appealed against a finding that his argument that they had a non-delegable duty of care was bound to fail. . .
CitedGlaister and Others v Appelby-In-Westmorland Town Council CA 9-Dec-2009
The claimant was injured when at a horse fair. A loose horse kicked him causing injury. They claimed in negligence against the council for licensing the fair without ensuring that public liability insurance. The Council now appealed agaiinst a . .
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police QBD 31-Jul-1990
Overcrowding at a football match lead to the deaths of 95 people. The defendant’s employees had charge of safety at the match, and admitted negligence vis-a-vis those who had died and been injured. The plaintiffs sought damages, some of them for . .
CitedTaylor v A Novo (UK) Ltd CA 18-Mar-2013
The deceased had suffered a head injury at work from the defendant’s admitted negligence. She had been making a good recovery but then collapsed and died at home from pulmonary emboli, and thrombosis which were a consequence of the injury. The . .
CitedAlcock and Others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police HL 28-Nov-1991
The plaintiffs sought damages for nervous shock. They had watched on television, as their relatives and friends, 96 in all, died at a football match, for the safety of which the defendants were responsible. The defendant police service had not . .
CitedStannard (T/A Wyvern Tyres) v Gore CA 4-Oct-2012
The defendant, now appellant, ran a business involving the storage of tyres. The claimant neighbour’s own business next door was severely damaged in a fire of the tyres escaping onto his property. The court had found him liable in strict liability . .
CitedWoodland v Essex County Council SC 23-Oct-2013
The claimant had been seriously injured in an accident during a swimming lesson. She sought to claim against the local authority, and now appealed against a finding that it was not responsible, having contracted out the provision of swimming . .
CitedChaudry v Prabhakar CA 1988
The plaintiff sued a friend of hers for wrongly advising her that a car she was thinking of buying was in good condition.
Held: An agent, even a volunteer, owed a duty of care appropriate for those circumstances. The measurement was objective, . .
CitedRegina v The Secretary of State for the Environment, ex Parte Ostler CA 16-Mar-1976
Statutory Challenge must be timely
The applicant had not taken objection to a proposed road scheme believing wrongly that it would not affect his business. Other objectors had withdrawn because of secret re-assurances given to them by the respondent.
Held: The court was asked, . .
CitedMichael and Others v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Another SC 28-Jan-2015
The claimants asserted negligence in the defendant in failing to provide an adequate response to an emergency call, leading, they said to the death of their daughter at the hands of her violent partner. They claimed also under the 1998 Act. The . .
CitedHowmet Ltd v Economy Devices Ltd and Others CA 31-Aug-2016
Appeal by the owners of a factory which suffered fire damage against a judgment dismissing their action. The owners claimed damages against the manufacturers of a device which, they said, should have prevented the fire from occurring. This takes us . .
CitedWooldridge v Sumner and Another CA 4-Jun-1962
The plaintiff photographer was injured when attending a show jumping competition at the White City Stadium. A horse caught him as it passed.
Held: The defendant’s appeal against the finding of negligence succeeded: ‘a competitor or player . .
CitedPaul and Another v The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust QBD 4-Jun-2020
Nervous shock – liability to third parties
The claimants witnessed the death of their father from a heart attack. They said that the defendant’s negligent treatment allowed the attack to take place. Difficult point of law about the circumstances in which a defendant who owes a duty of care . .
CitedJames-Bowen and Others v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis SC 25-Jul-2018
The Court was asked whether the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (‘the Commissioner’) owes a duty to her officers, in the conduct of proceedings against her based on their alleged misconduct, to take reasonable care to protect them from . .
CitedPoole Borough Council v GN and Another SC 6-Jun-2019
This appeal is concerned with the liability of a local authority for what is alleged to have been a negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties. The principal question of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Consumer

Leading Case

Updated: 11 February 2022; Ref: scu.180110