Who is My Neighbour?

In tort law, there is a very famous “neighbour” principle, established by Lord Atkin in the final hearing of the Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932] (aka the case of “The Snail in the Gingerbeer Bottle”), used in establishing a breach in the duty of care.

In his judgment, Lord Atkin said:

“The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. 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.”

Some colleagues and i were recently discussing the issue of office romance.  Miraculously, my company has an amazing number of successful cases where the dating couples got married.  There was even a successful “reverse takeover” (zha bor got pregnant with superior’s kid leading to superior divorcing his wife, who tried to slap the pregnant mistress in office, not realising that pregnant mistress used to be a national judo competitor.  The slap did not take place.) 

Our conclusion was – don’t shit in your own backyard.

The conversation then turned to the issue of dating clients.  After the pros and cons were raised, WC concluded, “Well, client is still your backyard”.

And that brought to mind Lord Atkin’s last sentence… “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act…”

Case closed?

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April 2007