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Colonial Cases

Ignatio v. Goodfellow, 1876

[work and labour, interpreter]

Ignatio v. Goodfellow

Civil Summary Court, Shanghai
Mowat 29 February 1876
Source: The North China Herald, 2 March 1876



Shanghai, Feb. 29th

Before R. A. MOWAT, Esq.


   Plaintiff, who described himself as interpreter at the Spanish Consulate, sued to recover Tls. 15, for services as interpreter on behalf of the defendant, who is captain of the steamer [Tunsin.]

   Defendant admitted owing plaintiff Tls. 5, which amount he had tendered him.

   Plaintiff said he was not content with Tls. 5.  On the 14th and 15th of last month, he was told defendant would require a Spanish interpreter in a case of collision in which the Tunsin was concerned.  He accordingly went to Mr. Robinson's office, and saw the defendant, who asked if he could interpret Spanish, and also whether he could read and write in English.  Plaintiff told him he could read English very well, but only write it a little.  Defendant also asked him what his fee would be, to which he replied Tls. 5.  Defendant then said, all right; and took him into Mr. Robinson's consulting room, where he interpreted the statements of two Spanish quartermasters of the Tunsin for about two hours.  At the end, defendant told him to come again next morning at ten o'clock.  He accordingly went, but found nobody there, and went to the Tunsin.  He there, on the wharf, saw Mr. Robison's clerk and one of the quartermasters.   The clerk told the quartermaster that the examination would not be continued that day.  Defendant also came to the wharf, and told the quartermaster he had better go on board, as there would be no case that day.  He (plaintiff) was in a jinrikisha close by, and heard it all.  He then went away, but on the next, the third day, went again to Mr. Robinson's, and interpreted for about an hour and a half.  Defendant afterwards told him, when his services were again required, he would send for him.  He was afterwards told the matter was ended, and therefore sent in his bill for three days' attendance, Tls. 15.  Defendant refused to pay it, and the summons was issued.

   Defendant admitted the engagement of the plaintiff's services, and said that on the first day nothing could be made of the Spanish quartermaster's statements, and they were dismissed for the day.  The next day, being mail day, there was nothing to be done, Mr. Robison having sent to him (defendant) to postpone the case till the following day, when plaintiff again came and interpreted.

   His HONOUR asked the defendant, if he supposed that for Tls. 5, the plaintiff was to go on as many days as he might be earned?

   Defendant said there was no stipulation as to time, because he did not think the need for an interpreter would extend beyond the first day, for which he was willing to pay Tls. 5.

   His HONOUR said that showed that in defendant's opinion Tls. 5 was a fair charge for one day's interpretation; and it was unreasonable to construe the agreement as fixing the remuneration for services that might be extended over any number of days.

   Defendant said he considered the charge was unreasonable, and therefore refused to pay it.  If plaintiff had said his charge would be Tls. 5 per day, he would have understood what was meant.  He asked plaintiff whist his charge would be for interpreting for the two men, and re replied Tls. 5.

   Plaintiff said he named that sum, because he also thought the enquiry would be finished ion one day.  But defendant told him to come next day, and he had to leave his business as a broker to attend.  If he had only charged Tls. 5, he would have lost a great deal.

   His HONOUR said he should give judgment for Tls. 12 1/2, - Tls. 5 for each of the days the plaintiff interpreted, and Tls 2 1/.2 for the day he attended and his services were not required.  His Honour did not understand that Tls. 5 were to cover any number of days defendant wished to have the services of an interpreter.  No doubt it was in the minds of both of them that the enquiry would not last more than one day, for which defendant said he was willing to pay Tls. 5.  But is was not reasonable to seek to make that sum cover an indefinite time - the enquiry might have lasted a number of days, or have been postponed from day to day (as it had been postponed once) without anything being done; and according to the defendant's contention, this kind of thing might have gone on to the end of time, and plaintiff never would have been entitled to more than Tls. 5.  Defendant must therefore pay Tls. 10 for the two days plaintiff was actually interpreting for him, and for the other day, on which he attended as desired but on which defendant for reasons of his own or his legal adviser did not attend, he must pay, by way of compensation to plaintiff for loss of tile, Tls. 2 ½.

   Judgment for Tls. 12 ½ and costs.

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