Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Jamieson v. Graham, 1891

[libel]

Jamieson v. Graham


Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 23 November 1891
Source: North China Herald, 27 November, 1891

LAW REPORTS.
H.B.M.'S SUPREME COURT.
Shanghai, 23rd November, 1891
Before Chief Justice Hannen.
JAMIESON v. GRAHAM
  This was an action brought under the circumstances set forth in the following petition and answer:
The plaintiff at the time of the writing and publishing of the letter hereinafter mentioned was and still is a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Royal College of Surgeons of England a Doctor of Medicine of the Queen's University in Ireland and a duly qualified Medical practitioner practicing as a physician and surgeon at Shanghai.
The defendant is and at the same time of the writing and publishing of the letter hereinafter mentioned was the Agent at Shanghai of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha a Japanese Steamship Company having a branch establishment at Shanghai.
For several years prior to and up to the time of the writing and publishing of the letter hereinafter mentioned the plaintiff was the medical attendant of the office staff of the said Company at Shanghai.
On or about the 17th day of January. 1891, the defendant falsely and maliciously wrote and published of and concerning the plaintiff and of and concerning him in relation to his said profession of physician and surgeon and general medical practitioner, and of and concerning him as such medical attendant as aforesaid in the form of a letter addressed to Duncan John Reid a Bachelor of Medicine and medical practitioner at Shanghai and a medical assistant of the plaintiff the words and figures following that is to say:
"My dear Reid (meaning the said Duncan John Reid)
  Will you (meaning the said Duncan John Reid) kindly send in your account for honorarium against the Nippon Yusen Kaisha to the 31st December last (meaning an account of the fees payable to the plaintiff as such medical attendant as aforesaid up to the 31st December last) at which date I (meaning the defendant) wish all arrangements made with Doctor Jamieson (meaning the plaintiff) to be considered at an end. I (meaning the defendant) very much regret having to take this step as far as you (meaning the said Duncan John Reid) are concerned but I (meaning the defendant) cannot act otherwise.
Yours truly,
J. Graham (meaning the defendant).
Saturday, 17th January, 1891.
P.S. I (meaning the defendant) will  send you (meaning the said Duncan John Reid) an official notice if Dr. Jamieson (meaning the plaintiff) wishes it.
J.G.
5. The defendant meant thereby that the Plaintiff had been guilty of misconduct in his said profession and was unfit to be employed as a medical man.
6. And in the alternative the plaintiff says that the defendant meant thereby that the plaintiff had been guilty of misconduct in his office of medical attendant aforesaid and was unfit to continue in such office.
7. And in the alternative the plaintiff says that the defendant meant thereby that the plaintiff was incompetent to act as medical attendant aforesaid.
8. In consequence of the premises the plaintiff has been and is greatly prejudiced and injured in his credit and reputation and in his profession of physician and surgeon and general medical practitioner as aforesaid. And the plaintiff claims Tls. 1,500.
The plaintiff therefore prays:
- That the defendant may be decreed to pay to the plaintiff the sum of Tls. 1,500 and his costs of suit.
- That the plaintiff may have such further or other relief as the nature of the case may require.
.  .  .  
  .  .  .  After directing the attention of the jury to the principles on which they should estimate damages, if any, his Lordship concluded by saying they would no doubt all have been happier if some means had been found of keeping the case out of court; but as it was before the jury, it was for them to do their duty and decide upon it.
  The jury then retired to consider their finding, and after an absence of 25 minutes returned into court with a verdict for the defendant.
  His Lordship - there will be judgment for the defendant with costs.
  Mr. Wilkinson asked that costs should not be given against the plaintiff, on the ground that a great deal of what had been set up in answer had been abandoned at the trial, that defendant could have taken out a demurrer, and if he had been successful, that would have obviated the expense of the trial.
  Mr. Wainewright said he had abandoned mothing whatever, and from the very beginning he had charged the plaintiff with nothing. He knew of no case in which it was laid down that because a defendant had not taken out a demurrer he was to be saddled with the costs of the suit. Without letting the case go for trial, it was impossible for the defendant to know that evidence would not be brought to show that the words were used in a defamatory sense.
  His Lordship said that although he had a feeling about the matter, he had no doubt; and he was afraid he must give costs against the plaintiff. He realised what Mr. Wainewright had pointed out - that there were questions which must be settled by a jury and that the case could not be stopped. Why he (the Chief Justice) was sorry was that he thought there were certain portions of the answer which were injudicious, such, for instance, as mentioning the second case. That, however, was not sufficient to enable him to change what he considered must be the rule in such cases as this.
  It was absolutely necessary that the case should come before a jury under the circumstances; the jury had decided against the plaintiff, and therefore costs must be given too. No doubt Mr. Wilkinson thought, and his client had instructed him to that effect, that there had been an aspersion on the plaintiff's character; but that had been removed, and as far as he (the Chief Justice) could see, there had not been the remotest ground for making it.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School