The Snail in the Ginger Beer – Beaten By the Toe in the Tobacco?
All Law Students in England are aware of the case of Donoghue -v- Stevenson in 1932 – the “snail in the ginger beer” case.
The link to the case appeal report is *here*.
Its importance is that before 1932 when the case was heard, there was no concept in the Law that anyone could have a general “duty of care”. Prior to that, there had to be a “one-to-one” relationship.
So a Blacksmith who carelessly hurt your horse would owe you a duty of care, because you and he had met and he was being paid to shoe your horse. His carelessness was viewed as a trespass committed against you.
But a ginger beer bottler who was not careful enough to keep snails out of the bottles and poisoned you, would have expected no-one could sue him. He would defend any law case you bring for compensation for your gastroenteritis and shock. He would say – “I don’t know you. You bought the bottle from a shop and not from me. In fact, you didn’t even buy it yourself, your boyfriend bought it for you”.
So in 1932, the law created the concept of “Negligence” as a civil wrong in itself. Now, if you are careless and sell bread with mice inside, to people who only want bread, you will be made to pay.
What I did not know, was that the concept of the separate tort of Negligence, was by 1932 already the law in America, in Mississippi.
So I bring you, Pillars v RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co et al. of 1918. *Link Here*.
The joy I find in it, is in the language of the Judge. Deadpan, or what?
Not only joy from the obvious pleasure to be derived from reading about a man who keeps chewing on his plug of tobacco even though he is feeling sicker with each chew, until finally he bites upon the bone of a decomposing human toe, but also the dry as dust words of the Judge.
“We can imagine no reason why, with ordinary care, human toes could not be left out of chewing tobacco. And if toes are found in chewing tobacco, it seems to us that someone has been very careless.”
I cannot read that to myself without hearing the voice of W.C. Fields. “Bring on the Provender” *Link here*.
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