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A Legal Perspective and Case Analysis in Light of Blyth

  • 06 Pages
  • Published On: 20-12-2023

Introduction

The claim of negligence may arise in cases where an intending party fails to provide reasonable care. The common law recognises negligence as an act that is contradictory to the needs of a reasonable person within a community, wherein a subsequent damage has been proved that has been distinctively harmful for the person that has either occurred naturally or directly by the contradictory action. On the other side, had it not been for the negligent act no damage would have taken place at the first instance. In the case of Blyth v. Birmingham Waterworks Co (1856), the importance of Negligence was rightly upheld by Alderson B wherein the three most important criterion of negligence has been discussed through the words

Every negligent act does not have to be claimable therefore, the criteria that allow such claims are:

There needs to be a duty of care that must be owed by the defendant and the failure to uphold such care could rise to the claim of negligence.

Such duty was breached.

This breach therefore, led to significant damage suffered by the claimant

Lastly, there was no remoteness of damage.

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As Lord Bridge expressed in Caparo Industries plc v Dickman [1990]: "It is never adequate to ask essentially whether An owes B an obligation of care. It is consistently important to decide the extent of the obligation by reference to the sort of harm from which An unquestionable requirement take care to save B innocuous" To prevail in a carelessness activity, the petitioner should demonstrate that: • the respondent owed them an obligation of care and that the litigant was in break of that obligation

Role of Donoghue v Stevenson


  1. Lunney& Oliphant, 2000, Tort Law: Text & Materials, 100
  2. Ibid

The case of Donoghue v. Stevenson had brought about an instrumental change in the history of tort law, most famously referred to as the ‘Snail in the bottle’ case had asked extremely pivotal question with respect to the case:

Whether a duty of care was owed to Donoghue by Stevenson?

Whether the relationship shared between the plaintiff and defendant were significantly close to establish any duty of care at all?

Lastly, if the final manufacturer owed any legal obligation towards the end consumer?

The case of Mullen v. A.G Barr and Co. Ltdwas also similar to the facts of Donoghue wherein it was held that without a substantial contract in place, the manufacturer owed no duty of care. Similarly, in both the cases, the court could not establish negligence. In another case of Winterbottom v. Wright involved a case of liability where the defendant owned a coach which was being driven by the plaintiff and in that instance, the mail driver got injured while doing the job. Even in this case, the defendant had a faulty coach in place which resulted in the harm caused to the plaintiff yet no negligence could be established

However, the issues raised in Donoghue’s case were prominently discussed in the Year 1932, May where by a ratio of 3:2, it was held that Stevenson being the manufacturer owed a duty of care towards its end consumer and thus, was responsible for the negligent act carried out by the defendant. The decision established that negligence as an individual and formal form of tort and the need to have a contract between the manufacturer and the end consumers is not a mandate as it stems from an implied assumption when the consumer undertakes the services of the manufacturer in the first place especially to all foreseeable consumers. Lastly, the injured part must carry the burden of proof to establish that there was a lack of care in the negligent act which caused the defect and injury, thus it must be “Proved” as well as “Averred”.

The evolution of Neighbourhood Principle:

Lord Atkin had developed the Neighbour principle which clarified the basis on which the negligent clauses shall be claimed which would require a reasonable care to be taken in order to


  • Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562
  • Mullen v. A.G Barr and Co. Ltd 1929 S.C. 461, 129 S.L. 341
  • van Rijswijk, Honni. (2010). Mabel Hannah's Justice: a contextual re-reading of Donoghue v Stevenson. Public Space: The Journal of Law and Social Justice. 5. 1-26. 10.5130/psjlsj.v5i0.1903.
  • avoid any act or any omission of acts that may cause any injury with who there is a direct or foreseeable relationship in other words would qualify as the Neighbour. This principle was held as the torchbearer in establishing a duty of the manufacturer along with a space to allow every case independently to be judged in alliance with the general duty of care. This principle was farsighted and did not surface merely on just physical closeness but relied on a deeper cognisance that anyone who is capable of being affected by my actions directly or foreseeably would be my neighbourhood. Thus, this was evolutionary in the history of negligence.

    This principle was then revisited and re-interpreted by Lord Macmillan as having sufficient scope to improve and can withstand many newer duties. In the case of Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd where the duty of care was questioned on the Home office who were in charge of few young Borstal inmates during their leave and training but for the lack of due care as established by the House of Lords, the inmates vandalized properties of the claimants. The house of Lords took the neighbourhood principle and analysed that claimants suffered injury due to an indirect act committed by a third party, thus, the liabilities of the defendants were calculated on the grounds of omission to take care of the inmates.

    The House of Lords in IIedley Byrne S; Co. Ltd. v. IZeller and Partne.rs Ltd reimagined the scope of duty of care where he held that the court’s assessment of the societal need and demands would calculate the reasonable foreseeability clause in ascertaining negligence which was further approved in the case of Dorset Yacht Co. Ltd. V. Home Office However, no reference of Donoghue v. Stevenson is being made in the case of Rondel v. Worsley, only relying on phrases like “Public policy”. It has been observed that in matters of economic agencies, Lord Atkin’s principle is not blindly relied on as it merely depends on the analysis of injury causing to “Limb, life and death” The judgment held in the case of Anns v Merton London Borough Council [1977] 2 All ER 492.


  • Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd [1970] AC 1004
  • IIedley Byrne S; Co. Ltd. v. IZeller and Partne.rs Ltd[1963] 2 A11 E.R. 578
  • Ibid
  • Dorset Yacht Co. Ltd. V. Home Office[19ti9] 2 A11 E.R. 5Gi, 567
  • Old Gate Estates v. Toplis5 [1963] 2 All E.R. 5’75. 615
  • The decision held in the case of Anns v Merton London Borough Council , helped in developing the general principles pertaining to the principle of Duty of care which could be applied to all the cases of negligence under the English Tort Law. The particular case dealt with a negligent inspection done by a local authority of a certain building plan. The claimant proceeded to sue the local authority. However, the success of the abovementioned action depended on whether the claimant could establish the fact that the local authority owned a duty of care to the claimant or not.

    Why does court resist the application of duty of care principle from the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson case?

    The principle of duty of care adopted in the famous case of Donoghue v. Stevenson has undoubtedly shaped the structure of the tort of negligence and established a strong and strict precedent for the future cases. However, considering the vast range of the acts of negligence, conflicting theories, several policies of the state and case laws, it has become impossible for courts to stick to the principle of duty of care strictly, without applying any filter to the same. Thus, it has become a fundamental problem across the commonwealth in establishing the area of duty of care.

    In order to set the principle straight and put a limited restriction on the arbitrary use and application of the principle of duty of care of Donogheu v. Stevenson, a threefold test was imposed through the case of Caparo v. Dickman. The Caparo test had three stages – foreseeability, proximity and fairness. As it was decided in the case of Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad Co, there should a reasonable foreseeability between the defendant’s act of negligence and damages suffered by the claimant. Thus, an explosion of firework caused by the defendant, cannot held to be an act of negligent when such act caused harm to claimant who was standing far away and such injuries were not a direct consequence of the explosion herein.

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    Another test to the principle of duty of care is the establishment of proximity. In the case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, a nervous shock suffered by the claimant after the incident of Hillsborough disaster, failed the test of proximity and thus the presence of


  • Anns v Merton London Borough Council [1977] 2 All ER 492
  • Caparo v. Dickman [1990] 1 All ER 568
  • [1928] 248 N.Y. 339
  • [1991] UKHL 5
  • the principle of duty of care was dismissed. The last test of Caparo namely fair and reasonable was established in the case of Marc Rich & Co v Bishop Rock Marine Co Ltd, where a surveyor was held not to be liable under the tort of negligent for a ship disaster.

    While the principle of duty of care under the Donogheu v. Stevenson case had been a revolutionary step towards reforming the tort of negligence but arbitrary use of this principle only causes chaos and futile law suits where a defendant suffers unreasonably. Thus, the test of Caparo was adopted by the UK courts for the purpose of putting a check on the applying of the principle of duty of care and it shall discourage arbitrary use of the principle hereunder.

    Bibliography

    Journal/ Article

    Lunney& Oliphant, 2000, Tort Law: Text & Materials, 100

    van Rijswijk, Honni. (2010). Mabel Hannah's Justice: a contextual re-reading of Donoghue v Stevenson. Public Space: The Journal of Law and Social Justice. 5. 1-26. 10.5130/psjlsj.v5i0.1903.

    Wiley; Donogheu v. Stevenson in Retrospect (1957); The Modern Law Review, V.20, N.01, p.1-24

    Case Laws

    Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562

    Mullen v. A.G Barr and Co. Ltd 1929 S.C. 461, 129 S.L. 341

    Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd [1970] AC 1004

    IIedley Byrne S; Co. Ltd. v. IZeller and Partne.rs Ltd[1963] 2 A11 E.R. 578

    Dorset Yacht Co. Ltd. V. Home Office[19ti9] 2 A11 E.R. 5Gi, 567

    Old Gate Estates v. Toplis5 [1963] 2 All E.R. 5’75. 615

    Anns v Merton London Borough Council [1977] 2 All ER 492


  • [1995] UKHL
  • Wiley; Donogheu v. Stevenson in Retrospect (1957); The Modern Law Review, V.20, N.01, p.1-24
  • Caparo v. Dickman [1990] 1 All ER 568

    Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad Co [1928] 248 N.Y. 339

    Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1991] UKHL 5

    Marc Rich & Co v Bishop Rock Marine Co Ltd [1995] UKHL

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