Tort law covers areas where somebody’s ‘wrong’ causes loss to another person, without the two parties having to be in a contractual relationship. The name comes from the fact that tort is French for ‘wrong’ – this is the law of wrongs. The big case which expanded this area of the law is also a strange one.
Mrs Donoghue was in a café with her friend, who bought her a ginger beer. She was ill after having drunk some of it because the bottle had a dead snail in it! However, she had not bought the bottle so she could not sue for breach of contract — she had no contract with the shop owner or the bottle manufacturer. Instead, she brought a case in negligence, a part of tort law, saying that the bottle manufacturer had a duty to make sure that the ginger beer was made in a clean place where snails could not get into the bottles.
This is where Lord Atkin set out the famous ‘neighbour principle’: I have a duty towards “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions that are called in question”. This sounds like you have to think about the possible impact of everything you do on anybody it could affect, but in reality there are many limits on negligence law – including that you have to breach that duty of care. Lots of things are relevant to breach but it is overall about how reasonable the action (or decision not to act) was. One element is quite interesting though, especially for those of you who are about to start learning to drive…
Courtesy of Oxford Royale