Could this be the 'dead snail' moment for digital assets and crypto?

Ask anyone who has studied law (at least in the UK) to name a famous court decision and chances are Donoghue vs Stevenson will be mentioned.

In that case, a dead snail in a bottle of ginger beer laid the rails of the modern law of negligence in 'common-law' jurisdictions (i.e. countries like England, Wales, and Scotland - where courts and judges can set out binding legal principles, rather than having to wait for legislation to be passed). A key principle emerging from the case was that Mr Stevenson (the producer of the now infamous beverage) owed a 'duty of care' to Mrs Donoghue (the unfortunate customer who drank it) to make sure that his product was safe. 

Fast-forward nearly a century and, the UK's Court of Appeal (the second highest court in the country and one which is able to create 'binding' precedents - at least unless and until they are overturned by the Supreme Court or legislators) is set to consider whether developers of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based assets owe a duty of care to investors in their products. The case relates to the recovery of lost assets but it represents an interesting development, especially when law makers in the UK and globally are wrestling with the thorny question of whether and to what extent they should regulate this new type of asset. 

Maybe, just maybe, the courts will get there first and, using 'traditional' principles, start to build the foundations of new protections for users and investors...


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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