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

McKeon v. Rust [1840] NSWSupC 57

contract, breach of, Sydney Cattle Slaughtering Company, butchers

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J., 6 October 1840

Source: Sydney Herald, 8 October 1840[1]

MCKEON v. RUST. - The plaintiff in this cause was a slaughterer of cattle, and the defendant Mr. Rust the carcase butcher of George Street.  The action had been brought to recover compensation for a breach of agreement in which the plaintiff had engaged the defendant to slaughter whatever cattle he might have to kill during the following four months, but had dismissed him in July, as defendant alledged, for neglecting his work.

            In opening the defence, Mr. Windeyer informed the court that the present action had been commenced ostensibly in order to recover compensation for the plaintiff, who had been lawfully dismissed by the defendant on account of neglecting to perform his work according to agreement, but the real drift of the action was to annoy the Sydney Cattle Slaughtering Company, and he had been informed that the most of the butchers in Sydney had subscribed towards enabling the plaintiff to bring the present action, as they did not like the company, for having been the means of depressing the price of beef and mutton, and at the same time injuring them in their bargains with the settlers, in consequence of which they had come forward to get the present case brought before the court.

            He then called Mr. Blake, the superintendant, who deposed that the plaintiff had at the commencement of the agreement done his duty in a workmanlike manner, but after the first four or five weeks, he became negligent, frequently leaving the beasts lying bleeding after they had been knocked down, while he and his men went to an adjoining public house, and that on one occasion when they were there Mr. Rust went to the slaughter house and found seven cattle, that had been struck down, lying dead unskinned, and undressed; and sent for them, on which they refused to come until their own time, and when they did go, the plaintiff became very abusive, snapped his fingers in the defendant's face, and told him he might slaughter for himself.  On another occasion when eighty-four cattle were to have been slaughtered in four days, the whole was not accomplished until seven days by which the company suffered very great loss.  In reply the plaintiff called witnesses to prove that he had slaughtered, from three to about twenty per day, and that he was frequently retarded from the want of accommodation, that the cattle were slaughtered as quickly as the defendant could remove them.  Several of these witnesses also swore that they never saw the plaintiff drunk during the time he was slaughtering.  In putting the case to the assesors, his Honor left it to them to determine whether the defendant had suffered loss by the plaintiff's drunkenness, also reminded them that this was not a case of master and servant, but breach of contract, and if they should find that the defendant was not justified in dismissing the plaintiff, then, they would give him such damages as they thought him entitled to.  Verdict for the defendant.


[1]              See also Australian, 10 October 1840.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University