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Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562

Tort Law – Negligence and Duty of Care

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 is the key case for negligence and duty of care within Tort Law for UK LLB Law Degrees. The doctrine of negligence accounts for the judicial precedent supported by this case.


The claimant’s friend bought a bottle of ginger beer for Mrs Donoghue. Mrs Donoghue could not see the contents of the bottle due to the glass being opaque. After drinking half the bottle Donoghue poured the remainder into a glass. The bottle contained a decomposing snail, this caused Donoghue to suffer shock and gastroenteritis.

The original warranty did not allow Donoghue to claim for breach of contract as she had received the bottle as a gift, thus preventing her being privy to the original contract of sale. As a result Donoghue began a claim against the manufacturer and defendant ‘Stevenson’.


Did the manufacturer owe a duty of care to Donoghue despite her not being privy to the contract? At the time the case occurred, the law stated a party could only claim negligence if there was a contractual relationship.


The House of Lords decided the Donoghue v Stevenson ratio decidendi.

By 1 vote the House found in favour for Donoghue.

The decision constitutes several precedents:

Firstly, negligence is seperate in tort.

Secondly, a duty of care does not require a contract in order to be established.

Lastly, manufacturers owe a duty of care to those they intend to use their product.

Further to this decision there exists the Donoghue v Stevenson neighbour principle. Lord Atkin stated within the judgement that rule of ‘love thy neighbour’ exists in law. This rule is that one must take reasonable care to avoid acts and/or omissions that are reasonably foreseeable that may injure your neighbour. The ‘neighbour’ in law refers to anyone who may be directly affected by your act or omission.

Donoghue had a resulting claim for action following this judgement.

Below you will find a Donoghue v Stevenson citation that you can use in your essay.

OSCOLA reference this article/case: LawLessons, ‘Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562’ (LawLessons, 14 September 2020) <> accessed 8th July 2022

Published inNegligence & Duty of Care
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