Duty of Care

In: Business and Management

Submitted By nige
Words 3479
Pages 14
The tort of negligence owes its origins to the tale of a decomposing snail that was found in a ginger-beer bottle – Donoghue v Stevenson (1932). The claimant, Mary Donoghue, went with a friend to a café, where her friend bought her a bottle of ginger beer. Donoghue opened it and poured some of the contents into a glass. When she finished this glass, she then poured the remainder of the bottle into the glass. At this point, the remains of the snail floated to the surface. This caused Donoghue to develop gastroenteritis and nervous shock, and she sought compensation from the ginger-beer manufacturer.
The case eventually reached the House of Lords, where Lord Atkin decided the case in her favour with his famous Neighbour Principle. In summary, this stated that ‘you must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which foreseeably could injure your neighbour’, where neighbours are defined as ‘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’. In this case, the ginger-beer manufacturer should reasonably have had the claimant in mind when manufacturing and bottling the ginger beer.
This test clearly established that in order for a duty of care to be owed, there must be reasonable foresight of harm to persons who it is reasonable to foresee may be harmed by one’s actions or omissions. Such ‘duty’ examples would obviously include cases involving doctor and patient, solicitor and client, car driver and other road users, employer and employee. However, the problem with this ‘neighbour test’ is that it has been used to create a duty of care in many less obvious situations, and the courts have therefore had to develop further guidelines to impose some limits on the scope of this principle. The modern approach comes from…...

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