Partner Ben Giaretta spoke to The Times about how the COVID-19 outbreak will lead to legal upheaval. Citing one of the leading English contract law cases - Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, Ben described how the 1892 case arose from the influenza epidemic that started in Central Asia in 1889 and then spread throughout Europe.
“The pandemic stimulated a thriving business in quackery and patent medicines. An example was the Carbolic Smoke Ball, which its inventor, Frederick Roe, an American living in London, advertised in the newspapers. He offered a £100 reward for anyone who used the Smoke Ball and then contracted influenza.”
Louisa Carlill bought one of the smoke balls in 1891, but, after using it “assiduously”, contracted the disease and sued for the £100.
She won in the High Court and Court of Appeal and, “Mrs Carlill eventually did die of influenza — but not until 1942, when she was 96.”
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