Holmes v Ashford: CA 1950

A hairdresser treated the plaintiff’s hair with a dye, and as a result the plaintiff contracted dermatitis. The dye came to the hairdresser in labelled bottles together with instructions. Both the labels and the brochure warned that the dye might be dangerous to certain skins, and recommended a test before it was used. The hairdresser had read the labels and the brochure and was aware of the danger, but he made no test and did not warn the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed damages against the hairdresser and the manufacturers, and was awarded judgment against both. The manufacturers appealed.
Held: A manufacturer who puts a dangerous article on the market must take reasonable steps to prevent any person coming into contact with it from being injured, but it was not necessary in every case that precautions should be taken to ensure that the ultimate recipient of the article was warned of the danger; the manufacturers had given the hairdresser a warning which was sufficient to intimate to him the potential danger of the dye, and it was not necessary that they should have warned the plaintiff; and, therefore, they had discharged the duty which was on them.
Tucker LJ said: ‘A number of authorities have been cited to us by counsel for the plaintiff in support of the proposition that a manufacturer who puts a dangerous article on the market must take reasonable precautions to ensure that the ultimate recipient is warned of the danger. I think that that is not the correct way of stating the proposition. Every person who puts on the market a dangerous article (and the learned judge has found this to be a dangerous article) must take reasonable steps in all the circumstances. This is not an article the nature of which can be ascertained by intermediate examination, and, therefore, it is an article which requires some warning. The question in this case is: Was the warning attached to this bottle a sufficient and adequate warning to be given in cases where the material is supplied to hairdressers for use on their customers? We must presume that the material is supplied to reasonable people, and the first defendant has said that he read the warning, appreciated what it meant, and ignored it. I find it, therefore, impossible to hold that the warning which was, in fact, given in the present case was insufficient.’


Tucker LJ


[1950] 2 All ER 76


England and Wales

Cited by:

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 . .
CitedLewis v University of Bristol and Ultra Violet Products Ltd CA 14-Jun-1999
The plaintiff was a research assistant employed by the defendant. She was an experienced molecular biologist, and was using an ultra violet transilluminator to photograph DNA gel in a laboratory when she was exposed to an excessive dose of ultra . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Consumer, Negligence

Updated: 13 May 2022; Ref: scu.226704