Lawyers from around the globe to commemorate groundbreaking ‘Paisley snail’ case

Lawyers from around the globe to commemorate groundbreaking 'Paisley snail' case

The world-famous ‘Paisley snail’ will take centre stage at an international conference marking the 90th anniversary of the groundbreaking legal case which founded modern consumer rights law in countries around the globe.

The Law Society of Scotland is hosting the virtual event to commemorate Donoghue v Stevenson on Thursday. The day-long conference will see more than 30 speakers from over 15 countries, from as far afield as Australia and Zimbabwe, address an international audience as they discuss the influence and legacy of the seminal Scottish legal case.

The 1932 case resulted when May Donoghue fell ill after consuming ginger beer from a bottle which, unknown to her or anyone else, contained the remnants of a dead snail. Whilst the events had unfolded in a Paisley café, they were the basis for an examination of the law in the highest courts of the land.

The House of Lords ultimately ruled that the manufacturer, Mr Stevenson, owed Mrs Donoghue a duty of care, which had been breached because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm to consumers.

In addition to changing the law in Scotland and the UK, the case laid the foundation of the modern law of negligence in Common Law jurisdictions across the world by establishing the general principles of the duty of care.

Ken Dalling, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “This was an exceptional case for many reasons. Not only did it introduce a new legal principle upon which modern consumer protection laws are based, May Donoghue was herself a remarkable woman.

“She was without the means to pay a solicitor but found one who was willing to take on her case with no certainty of ever being paid – a mark of her tenacity in the days before legal aid and of the willingness of the profession to support a just cause.

“Her action led to the establishment of the ‘neighbour principle’ and a major change in the way the law viewed consumers and the duty of care owed to them. Hers is a tremendous legacy which ultimately led to better protections for millions of people around the globe.”

Share icon
Share this article: