You may imagine that an injury could occur when driving your car or even tripping over something hazardous, but you do not expect to suffer an injury when you are sitting down for some jam on toast. Our client unfortunately sustained an injury doing this very act and required Lyons Davidson Scotland to pursue a personal injury claim as a result. This claim highlighted the importance of the ‘neighbour principle’ in law and the various regulations a company must adhere to when producing a product for the consumption of the public.
Circumstances of the Case
Our client had purchased a jar of jam from the defender and had sat down to enjoy some jam on toast. As she began to bite into this, she felt a crunch which immediately left her in pain. She suddenly spat out the contents of her mouth onto her plate to find two chunks of glass. The chunks of glass had come from the contents of the jar of jam. Our client was shocked to find this as she often purchased her jam from this company and had had no prior issues. A couple of hours later she felt her tooth fall apart. As a result of the incident, our client suffered with an injury to her tooth in which she required treatment from her dentist. This injury left her in pain along with having to undergo otherwise unnecessary dental treatment which our client had to pay for herself. The timing of the incident was also unfortunate as our client was left to deal with the effects of her injury for longer than anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially, the company at fault were contacted directly by our client. She contacted them not only to report the incident, but to warn them as she was worried this could be a wider incident with the jam processing and that other people may be harmed or effected. They had admitted that there had been an incident in the manufacturing of a particular batch and that they had tried to get rid of all the glass. They apologised for what had happened. They came forward with an offer in the sum of £500.00 to try and settle the matter there and then to which our client rejected and put forward a counter offer of £1000.00. Given our client was not aware of the treatment she would need to undergo, this was a very fair attempt at settling the matter. This was not agreed and therefore our client decided to appoint Lyons Davidson Scotland to represent her.
We intimated the claim to the company in question and were advised that the matter was being investigated. We were later shocked to hear that the insurers of the defender denied liability and any wrongdoing. They advised that there was no report of the incident and that there was no record of the complaint being made. They were therefore of the view that they could not know whether and incident took place and therefore could not admit liability. Our client had taken photographs of the jar along with the chunks of glass after the incident occurred, she had also provided us with the correspondence between the defender and her confirming they had been at fault for the incident. This was promptly intimated to the defender’s insurers along with medical evidence in the form of a dental report, with a request for an admission and offers to be made, failing which court proceedings would be raised.
We were happy to eventually receive a reasonable offer for not only the injury our client sustained, but also the treatment costs she was required to pay as a result of the incident. Our client was happy to accept the offer and draw a line under what had been a very unpleasant experience.
The ‘Neighbour Principle’
Any individual that has undertaken a law degree will be all too familiar with the case of Donoghue v Stevenson  A.C. 562 and its impact upon the law of delict. This case developed the ‘neighbour principle’ and laid the foundation for the development of the law of negligence. So, who is your neighbour? This case defines your neighbour as the person who you have a close proximity relationship with who can be directly affected by your acts or omissions. A person who you should be thinking about when engaging in an act or omission. Our client certainly fits this definition as when producing the jam, the defender should be thinking of the consumer and making sure the product is safe for purchase and consumption. Our client was the consumer.
In summary, you owe a duty of care to prevent any harm or injury to an individual wherever it is foreseeable through your acts and omissions. If you fail to exercise due care and you cause injury or harm, you are liable. This principle was further expanded upon in the case of Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman (1990). This case highlighted the need for the relationship between parties to be one of proximity, equivalent to a contractual relationship. Along with the need for there to be the foreseeability of damage and for the court to find it to be fair to impose a duty upon one party for the benefit of another. In our case, we see that the defender should have taken steps to prevent the glass from entering the jars of jam as it was reasonably foreseeable that this would cause harm to the consumer. Or at least, they should have pulled the effected jars from production. In failing to do this, the defender failed in their duty of care under common law and were therefore liable for the harm caused to our client. There was a clear duty of care between the defender and our client as the defender has a duty to make sure the products they are producing, will not harm the consumer. This can be said to be like that of a contractual relationship and therefore it is fair to say that the defender had a duty of care to our client.
In Donoghue v Stevenson  A.C. 562 there was no contractual agreement between the victim and defender due to the fact it was the friend who purchased the drink and therefore the contractual agreement lay between the friend and the defender and not the victim. This therefore made way for the ‘neighbour principle’ to be developed. Unlike that case, in our situation our client not only had a claim for the fact the defender had been negligent under common law, she could also claim that they had breached a contractual agreement between her (the consumer) and the defender (the manufacturer). Under the Consumers Right Act 2015. Section 9 states that all goods must be of a satisfactory quality. When purchasing the jar of jam, our client has a right to believe that the goods will be of a satisfactory quality and meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory. This includes their safety, freedom of minor defects and quality. It was clear that the jar of jam fell short of satisfactory and therefore the defender has breached their duty of care under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Our client was also able to claim under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. The defenders had a duty to adhere to safety regulations and make sure that their goods were safe and free from defects. They must include safety with respect to products and safety in the context of risks of damage to property, as well as in the context of personal injury. The defenders failed in their duties as the jam was not safe from defects due to the jar containing glass, resulting in our client’s injury. The defenders also breached their duties under the Occupier’s Liability (Scotland) Act 1960. Under this act, the defenders had a duty to control any dangers on their premises and take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that that person will not suffer injury or damage by reason of any such danger. As the product was manufactured on the defender’s premises, they owed our client a duty of care under this act to which they failed in their handling of the broken glass.
It was surprising that the defenders returned to deny liability, despite the gravity and significance of the principles laid out in Donoghue v Stevenson  A.C. 562 and the lessons it has taught us. Our case went right back to the cornerstones of the law of negligence and the duty of care placed upon an individual to protect our neighbour from harm. We were happy we could achieve a great result for our client and settle her claim for almost five times the defender’s original offer.