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

Wyatt v Chadley [1835] NSWSupC 16

architect, action against - negligence

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 4 March 1835

Source: Australian, 10 March 1835[1 ]

Wednesday, March 4th. - Before His Honor the Chief Justice, and Messrs. Berry and Nicholson, Assessors.

Wyatt v. Chadley.  - This was an action brought by Mr. Wyatt, the proprietor of part of the buildings called ``Moore's Corner," George-street, against Mr. Chadley, the architect, who drew the plans and superintended the erection of these buildings.  Damages laid at £500.  It appeared that in the original plans, as laid down by the defendant, the staircase of one of these houses was so narrow that it did not admit a person to ascend or descend with ease; that, during Mr. Chadley's superintendence, this had been twice altered.  It was also shown that the cellars, in the original plans, had no entrances provided for them; and that, in the execution of the buildings, a considerable quantity of cedar and hard wood had been wasted, and that the joiners had made one frame for a window or door more than was required by Mr. Chadley's plan.  A pillar had been placed to support some brick-work, without a proper base being provided for it, and one of the floors had subsided two and a half inches.  For the defendant it was shown, that, in the general plan, Mr. Chadley had made the most of his ground, which was an awkward place to build upon; that, with regard to the cellars, they might be entered by trap-doors from the shops, as was the case with some of the largest shops in London.

Mr. Therry, for the defendant, contended that the present action had been got up in order to prejudice a special jury action pending, in which the plaintiff in this action was defendant and Mr. Chadley plaintiff; that Mr. Chadley had taken one of these houses for himself, at a rental of £340 a-year for 14 years, and if he had given up his lease for £440, the present action never would have been brought.  He also stated, that but for Mr. Chadley's plans the present wealthy plaintiff would not have had it in his power to realize £1,200 per annum, for his outlay of five or six thousand pounds for this property.  They had heard the opinion of several eminent architects on the building, and all of them had spoken to the character of defendant as a professional man; and, on the whole, they had only heard of between five and six pounds which the plaintiff could have a shadow of a claim for.

His Honor, after commenting on the evidence, which was very lengthy, left the case to the Assessors, telling them that this was a legal ground of action, ``that if a person, professing to be of a certain profession, trade, or business, undertakes, for reward, to perform an act relating to his employ, an action lies against him for his want of skill in this business or profession, or from negligence or carelessness in his conduct." - Starkie on Evidence, p. 973, vol. ii.  The question was, whether proper plans had been provided, and the work performed skilfully.  He thought, however, that when a plan was laid before a party, that he would be conducted by that plan, as to the apparent parts of it, such as the doors, windows, widths of openings, &c.; -- that these could not become the subject of dispute after; but a thing which would escape general observation, such as a staircase, was different; and he would say, if the stairs were really so bad as described in this case, it was an unskilful one.  It was, however, their duty to see in what the architect had failed.

Damages £40. - Wentworth and Foster and Unwin for plaintiff; Therry and C. H. Chambers for defendant.



[1 ] See also Chadley v. Wyatt, 1835.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University