Negligence is a tort which depends on the existence of a breaking of the duty of care owed by one person to another. One well-known case is _ Donoghue v Stevenson_ where Mrs. Donoghue consumed part of a drink containing a decomposed snail while in a public bar in Paisley, Scotland and claimed that it had made her ill. The snail had not been visible, as the bottle of beer in which it was contained was opaque. Neither the friend who bought the bottle for her, nor the shopkeeper who sold it, were aware of the snail's presence. The manufacturer was Mr. Stevenson, whom Mrs. Donoghue sued for damages for negligence. She could not sue Mr. Stevenson for damages for breach of contract because there was no contract between them. The majority of the members of the House of Lords agreed (3:2 ratio) that Mrs. Donoghue had a valid claim, but disagreed as to why such a claim should exist. Lord MacMillan thought this should be treated as a new product liability case. Lord Atkin argued that the law should recognize a unifying principle that we owe a duty of reasonable care to our neighbors. He quoted the Bible in support of his argument, specifically the general principle that "thou shalt love thy neighbor." Negligence is a breach of legal duty to take care resulting in damage to the plaintiff. This definition of negligence can be divided into four component parts that the plaintiff must prove to establish negligence. The legal burden of proving these elements falls upon the plaintiff. The elements in determining the liability for negligence are:
- The plaintiff was owed a Duty of care
- There was a Dereliction or breach of that duty
- The tortfeasor Directly caused the injury [but for the defendant's actions, the plaintiff would not have suffered an injury].
- The plaintiff suffered Damage as a result of that breach