Negligence as a tort.

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Negligence as a tort may be defined as the breach of a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff by not complying with the standard of care of the reasonable person which results in the plaintiff suffering damage. The damage may be personal injury, damage to property or just pure economic loss. It may in addiction, consist of psychiatric damage also known as "nervous shock".

Before 1932, the Courts followed precedent in earlier cases that if a duty of care was held to exist in a similar earlier case then the judge held there was a duty of care but if a duty was held not to exist in an earlier case then the judge held there was no duty. There were very few factual situations where a duty was held to exist.

In Donoghue v Stevenson(1932) Lord Atkin, in attempting to trace a common thread through existing authority, formulated a general principle - the "neighbour principle" - for determining whether, in any given case, a duty of care should exist. He said: "You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably forsee would be likely to injure your neighbour.... 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 which are called in question."

The significance of this principle was that it firmly established negligence as an independent tort and provided a basis for its expansion to cover situations not governed by precedent.

Up until this time, the usual remedy for damage caused by a defective product would be an action in contract, but this was unavailable to Ms. Donoghue because the contract for the sale of the ginger beer with the snail in it was between her friend and the café. Donoghue sued the manufacturer and the House of Lords agreed that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to the end consumer of their products.
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A case similar was that of Haley v London Electricity Board, the defendants dug a trench in the street. Their precautions for the protection of passers-by were not sufficient to protec the claimant, because he was blind. He was injured as a result, and the court held that the number of blind people who walk about on their own made it foreseeable that such a person could be injured and therefore gave rise to a duty of care to take suitable precautions to prevent such injury.

This is not to say that cases in which no duty ...

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