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How Donoghue v Stevenson can help prevent coronavirus

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Reciting key passage from tort law classic hits recommended hand washing target of 20 seconds

Law students can help prevent the spread of coronavirus by drawing on their knowledge of tort law.

Washing your hands thoroughly is key to preventing the spread of the world’s most infamous pathogen. A virus-killing cleanse takes about 20 seconds, so the NHS suggests singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice over while washing to make sure you hit the time target.

But there’s another way: reciting the key passage from renowned tort case Donoghue v Stevenson also takes 20 seconds.

Twitter user ‘Strictly Obiter’ has now shared a handy diagram with the quotation overlaid on a step-by-step guide to effective hand washing.

The full quotation, delivered by Lord Atkin in 1932, runs:

“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.”

Legal Cheek can confirm that reciting this aloud hits the anti-corona mark of 20 seconds.

The rapidly spreading virus is inspiring legal bloggers too. The UK Human Rights Blog ran a post last month with the unimprovable headline “Corona-vires: Has the Government exceeded its powers?“.

While barrister Max Hardy recently took to his Counsel of Perfection blog to warn that deliberately or recklessly spreading the disease could be a criminal offence.

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