Friday, July 16, 2010

The Tale of the Snail

Here at Goodson Blogson HQ, we love to learn more about the lives behind the law. We’ve previously written about Foundation Press’s popular “Law Stories” series, which explores notable U.S. cases in a historical and biographical context. There are a number of other books which sketch the “biography” of a particular case, like Wiegand and Wiegand’s Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland or Garrett Epps’s To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial. Duke Law professor Tom Metzloff takes a more visual approach to the genre, with his Voices of American Law documentary project (formerly known as Distinctive Aspects of American Law), which features interviews with the major players of important Supreme Court cases.

It seems our friends across the pond have gotten into the law story spirit, judging by one of our latest acquisitions, The Snail and the Ginger Beer: The Singular Case of Donoghue v. Stevenson (KDC188 D66 C48 2010). Barrister Matthew Chapman recreates the history behind this seminal 1932 torts case, in which an unlucky shop assistant named May Donoghue was shocked to find the remains of a snail sealed inside her bottled drink. She brought suit against the manufacturer, and the subsequent House of Lords decision created an important expansion of the concept of duty. The case is well-known to UK lawyers and law students, and has even inspired a viral YouTube “Law Revue” style video, Snail in a Bottle (to the tune of the Police hit “Message in a Bottle”). Chapman’s account is comparatively low on singing, but is a welcome international addition to the “law story” genre.

Locating “law stories” in the Duke Libraries catalog can be tricky. The best approach is to search for the name of a particular case as a subject keyword; if you’re still stuck, remember to Ask a Librarian.