My, how things have changed!

It is prescriptive that things will change. For some the transition is regrettable, essentially one from good to bad. There are naturally special circumstances surrounding such misfortune; and often others presume to tell you how to improve your life or even worse, how to return to the way things were. Rewinding the clock is one thing; going backwards in time is another. The only thing phelgmatic is the step ahead. In some respects every one of us has had to endure complication and crisis, things beyond mere ineluctability like old age.  Life is never a breeze. Hearkening back to what was and comparing it to what now is can be staggering – on either count, up or down. How did we get from there to here? What enchanting process is it by which we threaded the detail of the past to get to the woven fabric that is the present?

The degree to which accident has played a part in our lives is immeasurable. Even those who are members of royalty are unassured of a specific worldliness or outcome. Nonetheless the averages prevail throughout. Just as it is generally predictable for those of any other start in life. What however has proven to be the case time and again is the rarity and marvel of the exploit by whomever undertaken.  Indeed it is the peril of foreseeability which ensures life’s serendipity.

Coincidentally this afternoon when returning home from the local grocery store (where by the way I capitalized on a mid-day, mid-week tranquillity to secure four of our favourite yoghurt – see below) I was told an electrifying tale by a dear neighbour.  The story goes that he bought some Minute Maid orange juice (“From breakfast to soccer games and everything in between, Minute Maid has you covered“). Because his wife doesn’t drink the stuff, he is accustomed to drink his desired portion directly from the container.  When doing so one morning he was suddenly aware of a particle in his mouth.  Upon examination it turned out to be a tiny screw similar to the those in the hinges of spectacles. My friend – being the raconteur he is at heart – telephoned the “800” number on the container. Minute Maid is owned by the Coca-Cola Company (looks like Bernie Sanders knows of what he speaks). The representative of the Company, after hearing the account, subsequently called to ask whether a photo of the particle were possible.  My friend assembled a dime and a quarter next to the particle to augment the thrust of the discovery – admittedly a “minute” (pronounced “my-newt“, pardon the pun) item and one all the more unexpectedly preserved in the ritual consumption. The event was reminiscent of what for me and many other students-at- law was a stock element of tortious liability.

The mollusc in question was a common snail that ended its days in a bottle of ginger beer. It made legal history in the 1932 case of Donoghue v Stevenson. It begins on an unremarkable Sunday evening on 26th August 1928. May Donoghue, a shop assistant, met a friend at the Wellmeadow cafe in Paisley, near Glasgow.

In brief the result is this: “Manufacturers have a legal duty of care to the ultimate consumers of their products if it is not possible for defects to be identified before the goods are received. Donoghue v Stevenson[1932] UKHL 100 was a landmark court decision in Scots delict law and English tort law by the House of Lords. It laid the foundation of the modern law of negligence, establishing general principles of the duty of care.”

Also known as the “Paisley Snail” or “Snail In the Bottle” case, the case involved Mrs May Donoghue drinking a bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley, Renfrewshire. Unknown to her or anybody else, a decomposed snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and subsequently sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm to consumers. There was also a sufficiently proximate relationship between consumers and product manufacturers.

Prior to Donoghue v Stevenson, liability for personal injury in tort usually depended upon showing physical damage inflicted directly (trespass to the person) or indirectly (trespass on the case). Being made ill by consuming a noxious substance did not qualify as either, so the orthodox view was that Mrs May Donoghue had no sustainable claim in law. However, the decision fundamentally created a new type of liability in law which did not depend upon any previously recognised category of tortious claims. This was an evolutionary step in the common law for tort and delict, moving from strict liability based upon direct physical contact to a fault-based system which only required injury.

Naturally I have considered assembling a resounding brief in preparation for submission to the Court in defence of my friend’s indisputable claim! There is however a complication – one of those pesky sequences in life – namely that I am no longer able to practice law in the Province of Ontario.  Or anywhere for that matter.  I have not been stripped entirely of my legal distinction; I am still a member in good standing of the Law Society of Upper Canada (or what is now in the era of “cancellation” called the flavourless Law Society of Ontario). It is an entitlement I am bound to preserve by payment of a token annual fee in lieu of Errors & Omissions Insurance to the authorities at Osgoode Hall.

But pardon me for having wandered so far astray from my initial enquiry regarding the novelty and fortuity of events in one’s lifetime. Perhaps it illustrates how odd at times is the flow of the river. I confess that it is difficult in any event better to describe the blend of things overall. From the most inconsequential beginnings there erupts the sometimes heady atmosphere of distantly related affairs. It behooves us ever to remain alert, as the Praying Mantis catches its prey.


Liberté Méditerranné Plain 10% M.F. Limited Edition The chef’s favourite and our artisans’ pride. Manufactured in the purest Mediterranean tradition, this opulent line of yogurts, exclusive to Liberté, is a special treat that we proudly offer for more than 30 years. Méditerranée yogurt is made from milk and cream. With a texture that’s the richest and creamiest on the market, this is yogurt at its finest. La crème de la crème like we say.