The Snail and the Ginger Beer
Foreword by His Honour Judge Chambers QC
Chairman of the ICLR
When Mrs Donoghue claimed damages for having drunk a decomposed snail in her ginger beer, she didn’t sue the man who had sold it but the man who had made it. Her lawyers said that he owed her, and anyone else to whom he sold his product, a duty to take reasonable care that it did not contain things like decomposed snails. The manufacturer said, snail or no snail, there was no such duty, and the Scottish Court of Appeal, known rather sportingly as the Second Division of the Court of Session, agreed with him. So the case went to the House of Lords, the final Court of Appeal for all cases in the United Kingdom. The result was a three to two majority in favour of Mrs Donoghue but, close as the decision was, it contained a statement of general principle that has underpinned the law of negligence ever since. It is set out in the speech of Lord Atkin and anyone who needs to know what he said will find it in  AC 562, at page 578; just as they have since the decision was first reported almost eighty years ago. It was in that way that the news of this seminal decision that has changed the lives of millions was signalled to practitioners of the common law throughout the world. And it is in The Law Reports that all who have an interest in the courts of the United Kingdom and with jurisdiction over the United Kingdom continue to find the headnotes, arguments and judgments that have provided a service unique to this country since they were started in 1865. I hope that you will enjoy this booklet of the report in which you can see (not for the last time in a court) just how strongly the views on both sides were held.