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From the landmark snail-in-the-bottle case of Donoghue v Stevenson to the tricky concept of actus reus, we've got it all. Check out some examples of CaseSnappy's powerful summarisation abilities below, and discover how you can supercharge your legal research.
Keywords: tort law, negligence, duty of care, neighbour principle
• In 1928, Mrs. Donoghue (plaintiff) went to a café with a friend who bought her a ginger beer in an opaque bottle.
• After drinking some of the beer, she discovered a decomposing snail in the bottle, which made her ill.
• She sued Mr. Stevenson (defendant), the manufacturer, for damages.
• The main issue was whether the manufacturer of a product owed a duty of care to the ultimate consumer of the product.
• The plaintiff argued that the manufacturer was liable for the harm caused by the defective product, while the defendant argued that he had no duty to the plaintiff as she had not purchased the product from him.
• The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to the ultimate consumer.
• Lord Atkin formulated the 'neighbour test' which provides that a person owes a duty of care to his neighbour, meaning those who are so closely and directly affected by his act that he ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when he is directing his mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.
• Applying this test, Lord Atkin found that a manufacturer owes a duty of care to the consumer of his products.
• 'You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be - 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.' (Lord Atkin)
• 'The grounds of action may be as various and manifold as human errancy and the conception of legal responsibility may develop in adaptation to altering social conditions and standards. The criterion of judgment must adjust and adapt itself to the changing circumstances of life. The categories of negligence are never closed.' (Lord Macmillan)
• Anns v Merton London Borough Council  AC 728
• Barrett v Enfield LBC  2 AC 550,  3 WLR 79
• Caparo Industries plc v Dickman  2 AC 605
What is actus reus?
• Actus reus (Latin for 'guilty act') refers to the physical element of a criminal offence. In English law, it constitutes the wrongful act or omission that comprises the external elements of the crime.
• The actus reus must be a voluntary act, and it must be a causing or contributing factor to the criminal harm defined by the offence.
Why is it important?
• The concept is important because it serves as the foundation for determining criminal liability. It helps to distinguish between wrongful conduct and mere thoughts or intentions which alone are insufficient for prosecution.
• Establishing the actus reus ensures that the defendant is legally responsible for the criminal act, rather than just the harmful consequences.
• Without actus reus, a defendant cannot be found guilty of a criminal offence. It must be proven, along with the mental element (mens rea), to satisfy the requirements of a crime.
• R v White  2 KB 124 - Relevance: It demonstrates that actus reus and mens rea must coincide. The defendant placed poison in his mother's drink intending to kill her, but she died of a heart attack before consuming the poison. The defendant was acquitted of murder.
• R v Miller  2 AC 161 - Relevance: The case involved an act of omission and a continuing act. The defendant’s act of failing to extinguish a fire that he inadvertently started was considered an actus reus. The court held that his omission to act created a duty and breach of that duty constituted actus reus.