Neighbour principle

An obligation to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which forseeably could injure your neighbour.

Lord Atkin in, Donoghue v Stevenson [1932], established the neighbour principle when he said;

'There must be, and is, some general conception of relations giving rise to a duty of care, of which the particular cases found in the books are but instances. ... The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer's question: Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply.

You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be - 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.' 

In Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) Mrs Donoghue claimed damages for gastroenteritis and nervous shock where the manufacturer negligently allowed a snail into a bottle of ginger beer which the claimant had drunk. A duty of care was found to be owed to the consumer by the drinks manufacturer on the basis that a neighbour principle existed between the two parties despite no previous relationship or knowledge of each other.




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