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1 Law & Contemp. Probs. 67 (1933-1934)
A Note on the Civil Remedies of Injured Consumers

handle is hein.journals/lcp1 and id is 71 raw text is: A NOTE ON THE CIVIL REMEDIES OF
From the beginning of the common law, the problem of protecting the consumer
from losses caused by defects in food and drugs has faced the courts. While cus-
tomers have cried to them for protection, business men, probably from the beginning
of trade, have lamented that such liability would ruin their business. In dealing
with this problem the courts have reflected the spirit of their times. The result has
been a changing body of law, and because the struggles are not wholly over, because
the confusion partly still persists, the study of this history has peculiar present value.1
The first approach to the problem in English law was preventive rather than
remedial. In medieval times markets were strictly regulated in the interests of the
consumers. Regulations extended even to price. They were local and enforced in
the local courts. The proceedings were criminal in nature, designed not only to
prevent impure foods but unworthy products of all kinds from coming to the
market.2 There were in addition extra-legal penalties which must have been a power-
ful deterrent to selling defective goods. The butcher's, the greengrocer's and the
apothecary's shops were strictly neighborhood institutions, and the sickness of a custo-
mer, whose illness, as all the customers knew, was caused by something purchased at
a local shop, would lead to financial losses more terrifying to the proprietor than a
judgment for damages. However, the dealer had a real opportunity for knowing
what he was selling. His goods were purchased locally and in bulk. These extra-
legal safeguards have almost entirely disappeared today. A sick customer means little
to a national chain store, or to a national manufacturer of food or drug products,
unless and until his lawyer appears. And the dealer, in so far as his stock comes in
packages or cans, has no more opportunity than the customer to know what he is
The older local regulations broke down with the decline of the social system in
which they were born and the decay of the local courts in which they were enforced,
but as early as the reign of Henry III Parliament began passing Statutes of the Realm
* A.B., 193o, Duke University. Now a member of the third year class in the Duke University School
of Law.
'Hamilton, The Ancient Maxim of Caveat Emptor (1931) 40 YALE L. J. 1133.
a 51 HEN. I, C. 6, §3 (1267) S. ( pillor', et tumbrel', et asss' panis et cervis).

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