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

Stewart v. Duggan [1890] NSWSupC 3

breach of promise of marriage, damages, seduction, attachment of debts

Supreme Court of New South Wales, in Banco

Innes, Stephen and Foster JJ, 19 May 1890

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 May 1890, p. 6


Mr. Ralston appeared for the defendant and moved for a rule nisi to set aside the verdict in the above case. The action, which was tried recently at Maitland before Mr. Justice Foster and a jury of four, was brought by plaintiff against defendant to recover compensation for breach of promise of marriage. At the time of the breach the plaintiff was a domestic servant, residing not far from Newcastle, and defendant was an engine-driver, but subsequently he won £25,000 in a "consultation sweep," half of which amount became his property absolutely. The jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favour with damages £1000, and defendant now sought to set the verdict aside on the grounds that it was against evidence and the weight of evidence, and that the damages were excessive. The first ground, however, was abandoned, and Mr. Ralston addressed himself to the question of the damages, which, he contended, considering the social position of the parties at the time of the breach, was too large.

Mr. Justice Innes said that in the report of his Honor Mr. Justice Foster, who tried the case, and from the evidence, the Court did not see any ground for interfering with the verdict. The jury were entitled to take a very liberal view of the case. Both parties were in a humble position at one time, and if defendant had remained so, it might have been a question for the Court whether the damages awarded were not excessive; but it appeared that before he committed the breach of promise he became a man of considerable wealth. That being so, and as he still continued the promise to marry plaintiff, the jury were perfectly entitled to take that fact into consideration in dealing with the question of compensation. Having regard to the other circumstances of the case - namely, that the breach of promise was coupled with seduction, although seduction was not to be a substantive reason for getting damages, the Court could not say that the verdict was one which shocked its sense of justice, or that it was so manifestly and grossly excessive that they would be warranted in interfering.

Rule refused.

Stephen J., 28 April 1890

Source: Sydney Morning Herald , 29 April 1890, p. 4

In Chambers. - (Before his Honor Mr. Justice Stephen.)


Mr. Field, instructed by Mr. F.W. Walker, appeared for the plaintiff, and moved for a garnishee order charging certain moneys in the hands of the Bank of New South Wales with the judgment debt, and costs, recovered by the plaintiff, to the amount of £1218 1s 5d, in an action at Maitland for breach of promise of marriage against the defendant.

Mr. C.B. Stephen, instructed by Messrs. Allen and Allen, appeared for the Bank of New South Wales, and admitted that the bank held the sum of over £10,000 on fixed deposit from November 7, 1889, to the 7th November of the present year. He said that the order must not prejudice the bank's lien upon the amount, which, however, would be ample to cover the lien and plaintiff's judgment. As there was an application by defendant for a new trial, the payment would also be subject to the result of that.

Order as asked, with interest from the date of the judgment: such order to be subject to the result of new trial motion and bank's .lien

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University