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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Corbett v May (1831) NSW Sel Cas (Dowling) 889; [1831] NSWSupC 73

evidence, as to character - evidence, hearsay - non suit - appeals, against verdict - assumpsit - promissory note

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., Stephen and Dowling JJ,[1 ] 31 October 1831

Source: Dowling, Select Cases, Archives Office of N.S.W., 2/3466


[p. 115]

[A witness knowing nothing personally of the general character of a witness called to give evidence cannot be allowed to say that he would not believe the other.]

October 31st 1831

Corbett v May

In this case the Court ruled that a witness knowing nothing of the general character or having any personal knowledge of another witness called for one of the parties, cant be examined as to whether he would believe the latter on his oath he knowing nothing of him but what he had heard.

Stephen for Plaintiff  Wardell for Defendant.



Source: Sydney Herald, 7 November 1831

Corbett v. May and others, executors of John Davis. - This was an action of assumpsit tried before Judge Dowling and two Assessors, during the present Term, to recover the sum of £35, the amount of a promissory note, purporting to bear the signature of the testator.  The general issue was pleaded.  A verdict was returned for the defendants, on the ground of the whole case being concocted in fraud.  Mr. S. Stephen now moved for a new trial, on the grounds.  1st, of the impatient and improper conduct of the Assessors in saying they had made up their minds, without hearing plaintiff's Counsel in reply, who had several witnesses to call; 2nd, that a non-suit ought to have been entered, and not a verdict returned for the defendant; and 3dly, that evidence was admitted by the learned Judge, who tried the case, that was contrary to law.  Dr. Wardell in opposing the motion, observed, on the first point, that it was merely a ruse de guerre on the part of Mr. Stephen, as he had not attempted to swear that he had any witnesses in attendance, and that he was not in a situation to call witnesses ; on the second, that he pressed for a non suit at the time of trial, but that the learned gentleman, on the other side, then thought there was plenty of evidence; and that the third ground was not tenable.  The learned Doctor said, before concluding, that such a case was better out of Court than in it.  The plaintiff was a sheep stealer; one of the witnesses to the note had been charged with forgery; and another witness with perjury.  The Chief Justice was of opinion, that the Assessors had hastily come to a conclusion without allowing the plaintiff to call witnesses in reply; and to prevent this becoming a precedent, they would set aside the verdict, and entered a non-suit, that plaintiff might come in again if he thought proper.



[1 ] All three judges sat to hear Munn v. Bettington, 1831 on the same day, and are likely to have done so in this case as well.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University