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Colonial Cases

Gribble v. Sassoon, 1862

[work and labour]

Gribble v. D, Sassoon, Sons and Co.

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 15 February 1862



Before W. H. MEDHURST, Esq., H.B.M.s Consul.

Certified copy of the depositions in the cause of which:-

C. W. GRIBBLE of Shanghai is Plaintiff


D. SASSOON, SONS & Co. of Shanghai Defendants.

Plaint. - The Defendants engaged my services to draw plans for a building.  I prepared the usual preliminary drawings and submitted them for approval, they were accepted and I was instructed to proceed to procure estimates, the estimate I procured for them did not meet with their approval; a Chinese being engaged to build the house.

I now claim the sum of Tls. 308.33 cents for procuring the estimate and drawing the plan.

(signed) Charles W. Gribble, Civil Engineer.

The Parties being before the Consul, the Plaint has been read to the defendant, who has been asked whether he admits or denies its truth in the whole or in part.  The Defendant in reply says: - I deny the claim in toto.

C. W. GRIBBLE duly sworn states: I am Plaintiff in this case.  In August or September last I received a letter from Defendants requesting me to call on them.  It contained a mere request to me to call.  In consequence of that letter I called on Defendants.  I saw Mr. Reuben Sassoon, one of the partners I believe, (I think his name is Reuben.)  He told me he intended to build a house in the rear of his property.  He said it was to be a three-storied house, and he asked me what I thought it would cost.  I told him I thought it would cost about 20,000 Taels.  He said he thought that was too high, and requested me to see what I could get done for 15,000 Taels.  I said I would make a plan of the house, and see if I could get it done for 15,000 Taels. After having prepared plans, about a fortnight or three weeks afterwards, I called with the preliminary plan.  Mr. Sassoon requested Mr. Warden to come round, as it was intended for Mr. Warden the Agent of the P. & O. to reside in, and I was to consult him upon the design of the house, in order to suit his convenience.

Mr. Warden came round and he examined the plan.  He approved of it, and Mr. Sassoon also said it would do.  He asked me what I thought it would cost, I told him I thought it would cost about Tls. 15,000.  He said I had better endeavour to procure a regular contract to that effect from a Chinese builder, and left me under the impression that I was to proceed with the plans.  I tried to procure a contract for Tls. 15,000.  I did not seceded in doing so.  I went to three of the best contractors in Shanghai - one was Wei Yun-chang, another known as Chap Dollar, and the other Suntne-chang - all well known builders.  Wei Yung-chang's estimate was, to the best of my recollection, was 21,000 Tls.  Chop Dollar wanted 22,000 and Tae Chang's estimate was 18,500.  This was the lowest.  I considered it the most advantageous for my clients, and acquainted them with the result of it.  I called on the Defendants and saw the same gentleman, Mr. R. Sassoon, to whom I communicated the result and estimate.  He said he was very much annoyed about it and thought it was too high, and he would let me know about it in a few days.  I called on him about three days afterwards.  He said he had nothing farther to tell me, but lead me to believe that I should hear from him in a few days subsequent to that.  I then left.

Mr. Warden next called on me about a week afterwards.  He said he came at the request of Mr. Sassoon to enquire whether I would give him the plan I had made of the house and what I would charge for so doing.  I told him I would prefer seeing Mr. Sassoon; and that I would decline giving him, Mr. Warden, the plans, as I had no dealings in a business point of view with him.  I called after this two or three times to see defendants, but I was not successful in finding Mr. Sassoon at home, and I ceased calling.  I afterwards wrote to them.

(Counsel for Plaintiff called on defendant for the original of letter in question, which defendant handed to him, and which was read in Court.)

I write this letter; in it I said I should decline furnishing plans unless I had the superintendence of the building.  Mr. Warden asked me for a copy of the plan saying he wished to send it home to the Board of Directors of the P. & O., to show what kind of house he had got.  I gave him a copy at his request.  I received no answer to my letter to Messrs. Sassoon. Some conquerable time afterwards (about 3 or 4 weeks, I think), I again called on defendants.  I saw the present defendant, Mr. Solomon Sassoon.  He explained to me that they did not intend to make any further use of my services, as they did not require anything farther from me.  I explained to Mr. Sassoon that I had gone to a great deal of trouble, and asked him for a decided answer as to whether he would entertain my claim for remuneration or not.  He refused most positively to make any remuneration.  I allowed some 10 days to elapse thinking defendant might re-consider the matter.  I then sent in my claim in the form of an account.  This is the original of account I sent in (handed into Court and marked B).  This claims for 1/3rd of the 5 per cent.  I should have been entitled to, had I had the superintendence of the building, and which I should have received on commencement.  One-third is paid on commencement of a building, one-third when half-finished, and one-thitrd when completed.  I should consider myself entitled to one-third even if I had not the superintendence of the building, because that is to remunerate the architect for work dome up to the time of the building commencing. Having received no answer to my claim, I drew on the defendants through the Chartered Bank.  The draft was dishonoured.

By the Court. - I don't know whether the first intimation I had that the house was for the P. & O. Co. came from Mr. Warden or from defendants. I had an idea it was for the O. & O. Co., but I had no business knowledge of Mr. Warden until I was told to consult him.  Mr. Warden and Defendant called conjointly at my Office after I was told to make the plans.  Mr. Sassoon commissioned me to make the plans, and I told him my charge was 5 per cent on the outlay.  No enquiry was made about more payment for the plans.  He said to me, "See what you can get done for 15,000 Tls." I was then of opinion it might be for that sum.  It always depends on the work done.  In this case I looked on it as an actual order to draw plans and get estimates.  I have had the question put to me as to what I should charge for the plans only, but I have not, that I remember, ever made plans only of a large house without carrying out the building.  I think I should refuse to draw up plans for a house to be built on the spot, unless I got the 5 per cent and superintendence of the building.  In my bill I charge on the estimate I procured and for which the house could have been built at the time.  I did my best to procure the lowest estimate.  The architect is not responsible for amount laid out. His first estimate is merely an opinion given to his employers.

Defendant does not wish to cross examine the witness.


SOLOMON SASSOON, duly worn states: - As far as I remember my brother sent Mr. Warden to Mr. Gribble to ask him if he would undertake to build a house for us, and we learned afterward that Mr. Gribble had accepted that he would build a house.  We wanted to know how much he would build it for; he wrote to say he would build a house for 15,000 Tls.  Here is the letter (handed in and marked C.).  At first he told us verbally that he would do it for 15,000 Tls. And then we got this letter from him to say he would build it for 15,000 Tls.  Upon faith of this letter we settled with Mr. Warden for £1,200 a year.  Afterwards we were informed by Mr. Gribble that he could not build the house for that amount; but he said he could do it for about 4 or 5 thousand taels more.  We therefore told him that we did not require his services.  He called upon us to give him something for his troubles.  I told him, "If you are entitled to anything we will give it, but I think you are not entitled to anything as we don't require your services."

He put us to a very great loss - about £300 per annum for a period of 7 years.  He also refused to give us the plan, which he mad for his own guidance to build a house.  He sent his hill in, and we declined to pay it.

By the Court. - We never as far as I know commissioned him to draw up any plans.  My brother was the principal person in the affair, and before he left Shanghai he said to me that he never commissioned him to make plans, only to build a house.  I don't know whether my brother went to Mr. Gribble to see the plans.  I have never seen the plans myself.  Mr. Gribble also told me when he called, that if we built the house like his plan, he would consider himself entitled to remuneration.  We did not build the house like his plan.  We did not commission him to get estimate from Chinese contractors.  We wanted him to take the responsibility of building a house for Tls. 15,000.

By Counsel for Plaintiff. - I thought that when a builder is commissioned to build a house, the plans are for himself and he takes the responsibility.  I don't consider that by the letter (C.) Mr. Gribble binds himself to build a house for Tls. 15,000.  I was not in the office when Mr. Gribble brought the plans to shew my brother.  I don't know which plans Mr. Gribble refused to give me.  I had not seen either draft or complete plans.  Mr. Gribble did not say what charge he would consider himself entitled to, if we built a house like his plans.  I understood that although Mr. Gribble is only an architect, and not a builder, he was to take the entire responsibility of the building for Tls. 15,000.

By Court. - I did not think Mr. Gribble's note binding, but I thought it was sufficiently positive to warrant us making a contract with Mr. Warden.  My brother told me Mr. Gribble had made plans and Mr. Warden said so also.

Judgment. - For the Plaintiff with Costs.

(signed) W. H. MEDHURST, Consul.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School