I received an invitation today to the inaugural common law dinner to be held on 26th of August 2009, to mark the occasion of the 81st anniversary of a momentous event in the history of the common law.
What was that event? It was the day that Mrs May Donoghue drank a bottle of ginger beer only to discover the remains of a decomposed snail in the bottom of it. This eventually gave rise to the case of Donoghue v Stevenson which is a 1931 House of Lords decision that laid the foundation for the modern law of negligence and duty of care. No wonder the common lawyers want to celebrate it!
Donoghue v Stevenson is available on the internet, but the judgment of Lord Buckmaster begins:
“On August 26th, 1928, the Appellant drank a bottle of ginger beer, manufactured by the Respondent, which a friend had bought from a retailer and given to her. The bottle contained the decomposed remains of a snail which were not and could not be detected until the greater part of the contents of the bottle had been consumed. As a result she alleged and, at this stage her allegations must be accepted as true, that she suffered from shock and severe gastro enteritis. She accordingly instituted the proceedings against the manufacturers which have given rise to this appeal.”