Monday smiles – Fish soup

A tort case for you today. You will find recipes and culinary history in the opinion issued, as well innumerable linguistic gems.

800px-FishchosoupThe case, which reached the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, was about “whether a fish bone lurking in a fish chowder, about the ingredients of which there is no other complaint, constitutes a breach of implied warranty”.

It involved damages for personal injuries when a fish bone became lodged in the throat of a Ms Webster following a visit to the Blue Ship Tea Room.

The Court found that “It is not too much to say that a person sitting down in New England to consume a good New England fish chowder embarks on a gustatory adventure which may entail the removal of some fish bones from his bowl as he proceeds”.

And further: “We are not inclined to tamper with age old recipes by any amendment reflecting the plaintiff’s view of the effect of the Uniform Commercial Code upon them. We are aware of the heavy body of case law involving foreign substances in food, but we sense a strong distinction between them and those relative to unwholesomeness of the food itself […] and a fish bone in a fish chowder”.

A couple of gems for you to search for in the ruling:

  • a bone of contention
  • broad outlook on chowders

From the pleadings: “the court will not only uphold its reputation for legal knowledge and acumen, but will, as loyal sons of Massachusetts, save our world-renowned fish chowder from degenerating into an insipid broth containing the mere essence of its former stature as a culinary masterpiece”.

Webster v. Blue Ship Tea Room, Inc., 347 Mass. 421, 198 N.E.2d 309, 312 (Mass. 1964)

Credit for bringing this case to my attention: McClurg.

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