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Duty Of Care Notes

Irish BCL Notes > Irish Tort Law Notes

This is an extract of our Duty Of Care document, which we sell as part of our Irish Tort Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Trinity College Dublin students.

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Duty of Care

Donoghue v Stevenson (HoL 1932) Facts

1. The plaintiff suffered gastro-enteritis after drinking from an opaque ginger beer bottle which contained the decomposed remains of a snail. IssueGeneral Duty of Care - Origins


1. Lord Buckmaster (dissenting)
? If there is a duty it has not been recognised by English law.
? If there is a duty it applies to the construction of every article, which would lead an unconscionable plurality of claims.

2. Lord Atkin (concurring)
? Although it is beyond the function of a judge to seek a complete and logical definition of it, there exists a general conception of relations giving rise to a duty of care, of which particular cases are just instances.
? This general conception relates to cases where persons are injured through my wrong doing, who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought to have them in mind when directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called into question.

3. Lord Tomlin (dissenting - concurred with Lord Buckmaster)

4. Lord Thankerton (concurring)
? Case law demonstrates how impossible it is to catalogue finally those relations in which a duty to exercise care arises outside contract.
? No previous case has dealt with essential element in this case - the manufacturer's own action in bringing himself into direct contact with the injured party.

5. Lord Macmillan (concurring)
? To ascertain whether a duty of care exists the courts should refer to the standards of the reasonable man - the conception of legal responsibility will thus change as it adapts to altering social conditions and standards.
? By manufacturing products for consumption, the defendant intends and contemplates that they should be consumed, thus placing himself in a direct relationship with the consumer and owes them a duty to take care.

Ward v McMaster (SC 1988) Facts

1. The plaintiff borrowed money pursuant to a statutory scheme from the local housing authority in order to buy a house.

2. The defendants failed to have it surveyed properly and it quickly emerged that the house had serious problems, resulting in their having to leave the house.

3. The plaintiffs sued the defendants for their economic loss. IssueDuty of Care - Test for ascertaining duty


1. Finlay CJ (concurring - agreed with Henchy and McCarthy JJ)

2. Walsh J (concurring - agreed with McCarthy J)

3. Henchy J
? A duty would not normally be placed on a mortgagee in favour of a mortgagor.
? However in this case the plaintiff was in a special position:
# in order to qualify for the loan he had to show the Council that he was unable to obtain a loan from any other institution - this should have put the Council on notice as to the consequences of their failure to ensure the house was good security
# likewise the Council should have known that he wouldn't be able to afford a surveyor
? Thus the Council owed the plaintiff a duty to oserve due care in the valuation of the house.

4. Griffin J (concurring - agreed with Henchy and McCarthy JJ)

5. McCarthy J
? Lord Wilberforce's Judgment in Anns should be followed.
? A duty of care arises from a combination of foreseeability, proximity and absence of powerful, countervailing policy concerns.
? The statutory scheme put the parties into a relationship in which a duty of care arose.

Sunderland v Louth County Council (SC 1990) Facts

1. The plaintiffs bought a house from an individual who had been granted permission to build it from the Council.

2. The individual had built it negligently and the house became uninhabitable as a result.

3. The Council had expressly approved the house at an earlier time. IssueDuty of Care - Economic loss

Judgment (McCarthy J)
? There was no duty of care in this case.
? The council were entitled to act on the presumption that prospective occupiers would have the site properly examined.
? The statutory authority granted to them did not have as its aim the protection and improvement of the housing conditions of persons who are not able by their own resources to provide for it, rather it was to promote the proper planning and development of an area.

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