Donoghue v Stevenson

The Paisley Snail MiniTrial

4. Precognitions – pursuer’s witnesses

Pursuer’s Witnesses

1. May McAlister or Donoghue, Junior – the pursuer

2. Ann Onymous

Pursuer’s witness No 1

MRS MAY McALISTER OR DONOGHUE, Junior,

Aged 29, shop assistant, formerly residing care of McAlister, 49 Kent Street, off London Road, Glasgow, and now residing at 101 Maitland Street, Cowcaddens, Glasgow,

I am the pursuer in this action of damages for personal injuries against David Stevenson.

The defender, Mr Stevenson, is an aerated-water manufacturer, and carries on business at Glen Lane, Paisley.

At or about 8.50 p.m. on or about 26th August, I was in the premises occupied by Francis Minchella, known as the Wellmeadow Café, Wellmeadow Place, Paisley, with a friend. My friend, Ann, ordered for me ice-cream and ginger-beer suitable to be used with the ice-cream as an iced drink. Ann was supplied by Mr. Minchella with a bottle of ginger-beer manufactured by Mr Stevenson for sale to members of the public. The bottle was made of dark opaque glass. I had no reason to suspect that the said bottle contained anything else than the aerated-water. Mr Minchella poured some of the said ginger-beer from the bottle into a tumbler containing the ice-cream. I then drank some of the contents of the tumbler. Ann then lifted the said ginger-beer bottle and was pouring out the remainder of the contents into the said tumbler when to my horror a snail (which was in a state of decomposition) floated out of the said bottle. In consequence of the nauseating sight of the snail and of the noxious condition of the snail-tainted ginger-beer which I had consumed I became ill. I was shocked. The snail had been, unknown to myself, Ann or Mr Minchella, in Mr Stevenson’s bottle.

Mr Minchella also sold Ann a pear and ice.

The said ginger-beer bottle was fitted with a metal-cap over its mouth. On the side of the said bottle there was pasted a label containing, inter alia, the name and address of the defender, who was the manufacturer. It was from this label that Ann got the name and address of the defender. It was definitely one of Mr Stevenson’s bottles.

I believe that the shock and illness which I suffered were due to the fault of Mr Stevenson or his employees. The ginger-beer was manufactured by Mr Stevenson to be sold as a drink to members of the public (including me). It seems to me that it was up to Mr Stevenson to exercise the greatest care in order that snails would not get into the bottle, render the ginger-beer dangerous and harmful, and be sold with the ginger-beer.

Further, it was Mr Stevenson’s duty to provide a system of working his business that was safe, and would not allow snails to get into his ginger-beer bottles (including the bottle I had). I know that such a system is usual and customary, and is necessary in the manufacture of a drink like ginger-beer to be used for human consumption. In these duties Mr Stevenson culpably failed, and my illness and shock were the direct result of his failure in duty.

I suffered severe shock and a prolonged illness in consequence of the fault of Mr Stevenson and his employees. I suffered from sickness and nausea which persisted. My condition became worse, and on 29th August I had to consult a doctor. I was then suffering from gastroenteritis induced by the snail-infected ginger-beer. Even while under medical attention I still became worse, and on 16th September I had to receive emergency treatment at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I vomited repeatedly, and suffered from acute pain in my stomach, and from mental depression. I was rendered unfit for my employment. I lost wages and incurred expense as the result of that illness.

Prior to the incident in the Wellmeadow Café I suffered from no stomach trouble.

I understand that Mr Stevenson contends that he in not liable to pay me any damages – so the jury will have to determine the question of liability.

There has been no agreement as to past or future solatium – damages for my pain and suffering – so those figures will also have to be determined by the jury.

In the event of Mr Stevenson being found liable, I believe that our respective lawyers have agreed damages figures for past loss of earnings and for expenses – namely £200 and £50 respectively.

I contend that I have suffered loss injury and damage through the fault and negligence of the defender at common law and that I am entitled to damages from him.

Pursuer’s witness No 2

ANN ONYMOUS,

Aged 30, factory worker, care of McAlister, 49 Kent Street, off London Road, Glasgow,

I am a friend of the pursuer in this action – May Donoghue.

The defender, David Stevenson, is an aerated-water (soft drinks) manufacturer. He carries on business at Glen Lane, Paisley.

At or about 8.50 p.m. on or about 26th August 1928, I was in the premises occupied by Francis Minchella, known as the Wellmeadow Café, Wellmeadow Place, Paisley, with May. I ordered for May ice-cream and ginger-beer suitable to be used with the ice-cream as an iced drink. I was supplied by Mr. Minchella with a bottle of ginger-beer manufactured by Mr Stevenson for sale to members of the public. The bottle was made of dark opaque glass. I had no reason to suspect that the said bottle contained anything else than the aerated-water. Mr Minchella poured some of the said ginger-beer from the bottle into a tumbler containing the ice-cream. May then drank some of the contents of the tumbler. I then lifted the said ginger-beer bottle and was pouring out the remainder of the contents into the said tumbler when to my horror a snail (which was in a state of decomposition) floated out of the said bottle. In consequence of the nauseating sight of the snail and of the noxious condition of the snail-tainted ginger-beer which May had consumed she became ill. I was shocked too. The snail had been, unknown to May, myself, or Mr Minchella, in Mr Stevenson’s bottle.

Mr Minchella also sold me a peach melba – peaches and ice cream.

The ginger-beer bottle was fitted with a ceramic stopper over its mouth. On the side of the said bottle there was pasted a label containing, inter alia, the name and address of the defender, who was the manufacturer. It was from this label that May got the name and address of the defender. I agree with May that it was Mr Stevenson’s duty to provide a system of working his business that was safe, and would not allow snails to get into his ginger-beer bottles (including the bottle May had).

I remember working for Mr Stevenson for a week or so shortly before the accident. His system of working his business was defective, in respect that his ginger-beer bottles were washed and allowed to stand in places to which it was obvious that snails had freedom of access from outside the defender’s premises, and in which, indeed, snails and the slimy trails of snails were frequently found. The snails at the factory were smaller than the snails that you get near the Wellmeadow Café.

I believe it was the duty of Mr Stevenson to provide an efficient system of inspection of said bottles before the ginger-beer was filled into them, and before they were sealed. In this duty also he culpably failed, and so caused May’s accident.

Mr Stevenson well knew, or ought to have known, of the frequent presence of snails in those parts of his premises where the ginger-beer bottles were washed and dried, and further, ought to have known of the danger of small animals (including snails) getting into his ginger-beer bottles.

I believe that the snail involved in this case, in going into the bottle, left on its path a slimy trail, which should have been obvious to anyone inspecting the said bottle before the ginger-beer was put into it. In any event, the trail of the snail should easily have been discovered on the bottle before the bottle was sealed, and a proper (or indeed any) inspection would have revealed the presence of the said trail and the said snail, and the said bottle of ginger-beer with the snail in it would not have been placed for sale in the said shop. Further, Mr Stevenson well knew, or in any event ought to have known, that small animals like mice or snails left in aerated-water (including ginger-beer), and decomposing there, render aerated-water exceedingly dangerous and harmful to persons drinking the contaminated aerated-water. Accordingly, it seems to me that it was his obvious duty to provide clear ginger-beer bottles, so as to facilitate the system of inspection. In this duty also Mr Stevenson culpably failed, and the said accident was the direct result of his said failure in duty. If the defender and his employees had carried out their said duties May would not have suffered the shock and illness which she did.

May suffered severe shock and illness as a result of the incident. She suffered from sickness and nausea. I think she consulted her doctor and received emergency treatment at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

As far as I know, prior to the incident in the Wellmeadow Café May suffered from no stomach trouble.

There were two small scoops of ice-cream in May’s glass. She had eaten one of them before the snail emerged.

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