Donoghue v Stevenson – The Most Famous Legal Case in the World!

A dead slug was found at the bottom of a drink in a café in Paisley and changed law like no other case has since. If you ask anyone who has studied law, they will have been taught the case of Donoghue v Stevenson.

Donoghue v Stevenson

Tally café in Wellmeadow Place

The story goes May Donoghue and a friend met for an ice-cream at Frankie Minghella’s “Tally café” in Wellmeadow Place. Her friend ordered a “pear and ice” for herself and a ginger beer float for Mrs Donoghue.


Donoghue v Stevenson

After drinking most of her ginger beer Mrs Donoghue was horrified to discover a decomposed slug floating in her drink. Mrs Donoghue suffered from shock and later had to be treated for gastro-enteritis. She then decided to take action against the café owner.

The problem was, Mr Minghella the owner of the Cafe insisted that as Mrs Donoghue had not bought the drink herself, he did not owe her a “duty of care” and she had no grounds on which to base her complaint.


The move that changed everything

In a move which changed everything, Mrs Donoghue decided to sue the manufacturer of the ginger beer instead, Paisley drink maker David Stevenson. The case lasted four years, her lawyer William Leechman claimed that the slug must have crawled into the bottle when in storage before being filled.

Donoghue v Stevenson

His argument centred on the fact that Stevenson had a “duty of care” to the consumer, even without a direct contract. The case went all the way to the House of Lords, the highest court in the land, before Mrs Donoghue finally won her battle in 1932.

Mrs Donoghue was awarded £200 in compensation, the equivalent of £7,500 today. Her win was established as a legal case study and has been used in every court action where a person suffers injury or loss since.

Millions of damages actions around the world now regularly begin with ruling in the Paisley slug case.

2 thoughts on “Donoghue v Stevenson – The Most Famous Legal Case in the World!

  1. Beth Clayton

    Hey Gavin! We spoke on the phone (through Sky – hope you remember!). Great job on the Donoghue v Stevenson story – Law graduates like myself defo appreciate the significance. Your website is great – keep it up! 🙂

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