Collins MR: This is an appeal by the defendants in an action in which the plaintiff sued to recover expenses to which he was put by the illness and death of his wife, caused, as he alleged, by typhoid fever of which the infection was caught from milk supplied by the defendants. The jury found that the milk was the cause of the fever, and gave a verdict for the plaintiff, for whom
judgment was entered. The first point taken is whether in point of law, on the facts as ascertained, there can be any liability on the defendants even if it is admitted that the milk was the cause of the fever, and on this it is contended for the defendants that there was no actionable wrong on their part. The point is whether the circumstances under which the milk was bought bring the case within the provisions of s 14, sub-s 1 [see, now, s 14(3) of the 1979 Act] of the Sale of Goods Act 1893… Considering the matter by steps, it appears that there was no specific evidence as to the inception of the relation of buyer and seller, because, as a matter of fact, people do not, when they want a milk supply, enter into an elaborate negotiation with the vendor of the milk. We begin the discussion with the practice followed in the dealing between two parties. The fact of the supply of the article involves a contract. That contract is for the supply of food, for no one would question that the milk was bought as an article of consumption… [M]ilk was supplied for a purpose known to the sellers under circumstances which showed that the buyer relied on the sellers’ skill or knowledge, and that the goods were of a description which it was in the course of the sellers’ business to supply. The point mainly pressed upon us on behalf of the defendants was that the buyer could not be said to rely on the skill or judgment of the sellers in a case in which no amount of skill or judgment would enable them to find out the defect in the milk supplied. That amounts to a contention that a seller of goods cannot be answerable for a latent defect in them unless upon a special contract to that effect. That argument is not employed for the first time, for it was used before the Sale of Goods Act 1893, which consolidated and crystallised the law, which seems to me to be just the same under the statute as it was under the common law. The matter was specifically dealt with in the considered judgment of the Court of Appeal in Randall v Newson, where it was held that on the sale of an article for a specific purpose there is a warranty by the vendor that it is reasonably fit for the purpose, and that there is no exception as to latent undiscoverable defects. That was the case of a defective pole for a carriage, and the view of the court is expressed thus: If the subject matter be an article or commodity to be used for a particular purpose, the thing offered or delivered must answer that description, that is to say, it must be that article or commodity, and reasonably fit for the particular purpose. The governing principle, therefore, is that the thing offered and delivered under a contract of purchase and sale must answer the description of it which is contained in words in the contract, or which would be so contained if the contract were accurately drawn out. And if that be the governing principle, there is no place in it for the suggested limitation.’ The suggested limitation was that the principle applied only to such defects as could be discovered by reasonable care and skill. The judgment continues:
If the article or commodity offered or delivered does not in fact answer the description of it in the contract, it does not do so more or less because the defect in it is patent, or latent, or discoverable.