Donoghue v Stevenson and local authorities: can the tort of negligence be built on shaky foundations? A New Zealand perspective
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Identifying the appropriate test for finding a duty of care is a matter which has exercised the minds of the judiciary across all common law jurisdictions since Lord Atkin’s famous formulation of the ‘neighbour’ principle in Donoghue v Stevenson. This paper examines that issue in the context of the cases relating to the liability of territorial authorities for negligently constructed buildings in New Zealand. It traces the jurisprudence which has evolved in the New Zealand courts over the past 40 years in the light of developments in other jurisdictions especially the English courts. The paper will also consider what this body of case law has to say about a number of the other important issues to emerge in the tort of negligence over the past 50 years or so such as the recovery of economic loss, reliance and vulnerability, and the liability of public bodies.