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Colonial Cases

Edbrook v. Jones, 1876

[hire of carriages]

Edbrook v. Jones

Civil Summary Court, Shanghai
Mowat, 23 March 1876
Source: The North China Herald, 30 March 1876



Shanghai, March 23rd.

Before R. A. MOWAT, Esq.


   This was an action to recover $24 for damage to, and hire of two carriages.

   Defendant was not present when the case commenced, but he put in an appearance while the plain tiff was under examination.

   Plaintiff deposed - I am a livery stable keeper, in Kiangse Road.  I have also an establishment at Hongkew.  Yesterday evening, a carriage of mine was brought home to Kiangse Road by coolies.  One of the two wheels was broken all to pieces.  There were only four spokes, the hub and rum left.  The axle was also bent.  That was the damage the carriage had sustained.  The pony's side was swollen, and it appeared to have been caused by flogging.  I estimate the damage to that carriage at twenty dollars.  I do not s eek to recover anything for the injury to the pony.  This morning, another carriage was brought to my place at Kiangse Road, with the dash board broken off, and I estimate the damage to that carriage at $2.  The other two dollars in the claim are for the hire of the second carriage.  I do not know of my own knowledge how the carriages were damages, but my mafoo has told me that Jones turned the first carriage I mentioned, too sharply round the corner, at the Bubbling Well.  I sent to Jones this morning, but he refuses to hear anything about the matter.  I sent an account to him, before took out the summons.  I don't know how the second carriage was broken, but I have the mafoo in attendance.

   THOMAS JAMES HOPE said - I am in the employment of Mr. Edbrook at his place of business at Hongkew.  Last evening I saw a broken carriage at my master's place in Kiangse Road, and I recognised it as the one I had let out, at the Hongkew stables, at half past three o'clock in the afternoon, to a man who gave me the name of Jones.  He did not tell me what he was at the time, but I know now that he is steward on board the Teheran.  He appeared to be sober, but I think he had a little drink.  The other carriage, I let out to the same man in the evening.

   At this stage of the case the defendant appeared, and in reply to His Worship he said he denied the claim.

   His WORSHIP - How did you break the first carriage?

   Defendant - The spokes of the wheel were "gone" before we started, and the man (Hope) afterwards told us that he was not aware the wheel was so bad as it was.  I had a friend with me, and as we were turning the corner near the Bubbling Well Cottage, on out way back from Sikawei when the wheel flew all to pieces.  The spokes were rotten, and there was mud in the sockets of the hub.  We had not been in the other carriage two minutes when the dash board fell off into the street.  The spokes of the wheel of the first carriage appeared to have been in a bad state for months.  I did not examine the wheel very minutely.  By the word "gone" I don't mean the spokes were out of the wheel altogether.  They were loose and rotten.  After the accident, we walked back to the plaintiff's place of business, and the man (Hope) let us have another carriage to finish the day with.

   Hope interposed and stated that he let the defendant have the second carriage to go to see a person who he stated lived in the French Settlement.  If they went further with it, they were to pay for the hire. Defendant replied all right, and promised that the carriage should be returned in a few minutes.  It was then between six and seven o'clock in the evening, and the carriage was not returned until nearly ten o'clock.

   His Worship (to Hope) - Did you know the condition the carriage was in, when it went out at half-past three o'clock in the afternoon.

   HOPE - I know that the carriage was firm, because I have been driving it myself for the last three weeks.

   Defendant - That is false.

   His WORSHIP - You can't know whether it is false or not, unless you have lived with him for the three weeks.

   HOPE - The carriage was sound when it went out.  When the defendant returned he said that when he was driving carefully the carriage fell to pieces of its own accord.

   Defendant - Did you not acknowledge that there were spokes gone from the wheel?

   HOPE p- There was one spoke gone from the wheel.

   His WORSHIP - At the time the carriage was hired?

   HOPE - yes.

   In answer to his WORSHIP defendant repeated that the wheel fell to pieces of its own accord, and stated that he put four of the spokes of the wheel into the carriage, which he picked up on the roads.  He was not drunk at the time of the accident, but was driving carefully.  The pony was not galloping.  They had been to Sakkara, and called at an hotel.  They did not stay .long.  When they turned the corner at Bubbling Well Cottage there was a trap coming in the opposite direction.  There was no collision, but it was just as they were passing the other carriage, that the wheel fell to pieces, and the body of the trap rested on the axle.  He did not whip the pony, and could not account for the swelling on its side.  It was the near or left wheel that smashed.

   His WORSHIP could not understand a carriage wheel falling to pieces without anything uncommon occurring at the time.

   Defendant - Northing uncommon occurred.  I did not turn the pony sharp, or anything of that kind.

   Plaintiff here produced four of the spokes which he had taken from the broken wheel, but defendant asserted that they were quite different to those he picked up on the road, and put in the trap.

   His WORSHIP asked whether the spokes referred to be the defendant were in Court.

   Plaintiff answered that when the carriage was brought homer there were no spokes in it.

   After further conversation as to the stability of the wheels of the carriage, his Worship decided to have the carriage brought to the Court for his inspection, and to enable an interpreter to appear to interpret the evidence of the Mafoo, the case was adjourned for two hours.

   On the resumption of the hearing of the case the Mafoo was called and stated that the defendant was driving furiously, and whipping the pony when the accident occurred. In turning the corner he alleged that defendant first pulled the right and then the left rein.

   Defendant said he pulled the left rein only, and did not whip the pony.
   Plaintiff stated that the defendant must have been going at a furious rate round the corner, and a sharp turn to avoid the other carriage, had caused the wheel to break.  He had once a similar accident himself.

   His WORSHIP (to plaintiff) - You can only succeed by showing that the defendant has been guilty lf negligence.  He was bound to use all ordinary care while he was in charge of the carriage, and the mere fact of an accident occurring does not of itself prove negligence.  It has not been proved that he did not use reasonable care, and with the most careful, sometimes accidents occur.  You must not imagine that because a man brings back one of your c carriages damaged that you are necessarily entitled to recover.  You must prove negligence before you can recover, and negligence has not been proved to my satisfaction in this case.  A man who hires a carriage in no way guarantees or insures its safe return; all that he undertakes is that he will exercise ordinary care in his use of it, and that I think the defendant did, for you have just said you had once a similar accident yourself, and no matter how careful the defendant had been, this accident might have happened.

   Plaintiff said he was not in a position to prove further negligence.
   His WORSHIP - Then as regards the first carriage, I am not   satisfied that negligence has been proved.  I may say that I think it a great deal more likely that what occurred was due to some inherent defect in the wheel itself; but it is not necessary to decide what was the actual cause for the accident.  It is enough to say that the plaintiff has not made out his case.

   Evidence was then tendered to show that when defendant's friend was getting into the second carriage at the door of the Wharf hotel, the dash board gave way, and soon afterwards fell off.

   His WORSHIP was of opinion that the plaintiff could not recover for damages done in that way, no carelessness or negligence being proved.  Defendant was, however, ordered to pay $2 for the hire of the second carriage.

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