"Snail sale: New gin marks historic Paisley legal case" The Herald: December 2021


Snail sale: New gin marks historic Paisley legal case

When May Donoghue popped into a Paisley café in 1928, little did she know that her visit would lead to one of the most famous legal cases in history.

The shop assistant discovered a decomposing snail in her bottle of ginger beer and went on to sue the manufacturer in a landmark lawsuit which set an international precedent on the law of negligence.

The action gave new powers to consumers around the world and is now infamous among the legal profession, with the quirky case taught to almost every law student in the country.

And now, ahead of the 90th anniversary of the legal decision in the case, it is being commemorated by a Paisley gin maker, with some of the profits going to the Law Society of Scotland’s charity foundation.

The LawScot Foundation has partnered with Buddies Gin to create an exclusive run of 100 limited-edition bottles of “Donoghue vs Stevenson” gin – with no snails included.

Kerri Montgomery, member of the Lawscot Foundation Fundraising Committee, said: “I am delighted to have been involved in the launch of the limited-edition Donoghue v Stevenson gin to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the case next year.

“Lawyers all over the world know of the ‘snail in the ginger bottle case’. They may or may not know that Mrs Donoghue was a ‘Paisley Buddy’ or someone who hails from Paisley.

“It is only fitting that the Lawscot Foundation have teamed up with Buddies gin to produce this wonderful premium Scottish craft gin. It is a true celebration of the history of the case and a wonderful, and tasty, way to support the many students who benefit from the support of the Lawscot Foundation.

“Just in time for Christmas, it makes a wonderful gift or a fantastic addition to your Christmas drinks cabinet.”

She added that the money raised from the sale will go towards helping people from less-advantaged backgrounds to access the legal profession.

The case began when Mrs Donoghue visited the Wellmeadow Café in Paisley’s West End with a friend, who purchased the ginger beer for her.

After drinking some of the refreshment, she topped up her glass and a decomposing snail fell from the bottle.

Mrs Donoghue decided to pursue a case against drinks manufacturer David Stevenson, but as she had not bought the drink herself, she had no direct claim against him.

She sought damages for nervous shock and gastroenteritis but the court had to first decide if she should be allowed to pursue her case.

The original judgment was that she could, but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal and the case found its way to House of Lords for a final decision.

On May 26, 1932, Judge Lord Atkin of Aberdovey found in favour of Mrs Donoghue, and she was allowed to pursue her claim under the “neighbour principle”.

The judge stated: “You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.”

The case was eventually settled out of court and Mrs Donoghue was awarded £200, but it opened the door to a raft of compensation cases worldwide.

David Montgomery, director of Buddies Gin said: “We are delighted to partner with the Lawscot Foundation on the launch of our new ‘Donoghue v Stevenson’ gin to commemorate the 90th anniversary of ‘The Snail in the bottle’ legal case.

“Each bottle sold will include a donation to Lawscot Foundation which will support the lawyers of the future whilst celebrating an important historical legal case in our hometown of Paisley.

“As a Paisley based business and local Buddies we are proud to share a piece of Paisley history with the world, and what better way to celebrate than with a Buddies gin and tonic.”

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