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

Quinlan v. Harris [1880] NSWSupC 1

breach of promise of marriage

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Martin C.J., 15 November 1880

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 16 November 1880, p. 9

Banco Court. - (Before his Honor the Chief Justice and a jury of four.)

Quinlan v. Harris.

Jury: Messrs. G.C. Johnston, H. Fleming, S. Priestley, and W. Ayton.

Mr. Want, instructed by Mr. Clayton, appeared for the plaintiff; Mr. Rogers and Mr. Pitcairn, the instructed by Messrs. Bull and Bull, the appeared for the defendant.

This was an action brought by Mary Quinlan to recover damages (£1000) from John Harris for breach of promise of marriage. The defendant denied the promise. The plaintiffs case was that she had been a trained nurse, and in the course of 'her business met the defendant at an inn in George the-street South. He was afterwards introduced to her by his housekeeper, a Mrs. Dwyer, whom she had attended in her confinement. After the introduction, the plaintiff, in January, 1873, accepted an invitation from the defendant to be a guest at his estate, Shane's Park, South Creek. While there he promised to marry her, and under such a promise she was seduced. Are the living for three months as his wife, the defendant furnished a cottage for her at Balmain, had where a child was born, for the maintenance of which the defendant had afterwards to pay 15s. per week. The plaintiff, after the birth of her child, broke down health, and was no longer able to follow her profession. After leaving Shane's Park she, at the defendant's instigation, assumed the name of Mrs. Harris, so that when they were married no one would know when it took place, the defendant alleging that he could not be married till some lawsuit in which he was concerned was settled. At the time of the promise the plaintiff was 27 years of age, and the defendant 70 years. At the conclusion of the plaintiffs case Mr. Rogers (for the defendant) moved for a nonsuit on the ground that under the Act 40 Vic., No. 3, parties to action for breach of promise of marriage were made competent to give evidence, but that the plaintiff could not succeed unless there was corroborative evidence in support of the promise.

His Honor, after hearing argument, granted the nonsuit the, as there was no corroborative evidence in accordance with the Act.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University