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Colonial Cases

Blanc v. Bentley, 1897

[medical services]


Blanc v. Bentley

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 13 July 1897
Source: North China Herald, 16 July, 1897




Shanghai, 13th July

Before Sir Nicholas J. Hannen, Chief Justice.


   This was a claim by Dr. E. Blanc against Mr. J. W. Bentley for Tls. 80 on account of professional services rendered to the defendant's wife and family. The defendant paid Tls. 20 into Court. Mr. F. Ellis (Messrs. Browett & Ellis) appeared for the plaintiffs and Mr. H. P, Wilkinson for the defendant.

   Mr. Ellis, in opening the case for the plaintiff, explained that the claim was for medical attendance upon the defendant's wife and family between the 31st of July,1895, and the 3rd of March,1896. In answer the defendant admitted owing Tls. 20, but said that the contract under which the Tls. 60 was to be paid was not fulfilled by the plaintiff, and therefore was not due. The plaintiff had not instituted the case for the mere sake of the recovery of the sum claimed, but on account of the principle involved in the case. He had discharged certain professional duties, and he was entitled to have them recognised in a proper way.  Not until the answer was filed in Court had the defendant ever suggested that he should not pay the claim for the reasons now alleged.

   DR. Blanc was then called. He said he was an M.D. of Paris in practice in Shanghai since August,1889. Mrs. Bentley came to consult him seven times in 1895, when she was living at Pootung. She was expecting her confinement, and on his advice after Christmas she came to live with some friends at the Rifle Range.  Before her confinement he paid her 23 visits. There was no arrangement as to a contract, and if he had charged at the ordinary rate per visit and for the confinement, it would comer to above Tls. 175. But he thought the defendant was not able to pay such a sum, and he accordingly reduced it to Tls. 60 for the services in connection with the confinement. When the two bills amounting to Tls. 80 were presented to the defendant he kept them, and told the Shroff to come again, but he never paid. Receiving no reply to his letters he had taken these proceedings.

   Mr. Wilkinson, in cross examining the plaintiff, said he hoped it would be understood that neither he (Mr. Wilkinson) nor the defendant imputed to the plaintiff any want of professional skill. In reply to Mr. Wilkinson Dr. Blanc said he was informed, when he first saw Mrs. Bentley, that there might be circumstances which would complicate her illness. She was confined on the 23rd of February, and he consented to her going over to Pootung on the 12th of March. On the q16trg of March he received a letter from her husband that she was suffering from high fever, and asking him to come over in the launch which would be at the jetty at two o'clock. That was during his consultation hours, but at considerable inconvenience he went down to the jetty at 2.35 but could not find the launch. He left a message for the laodah that he would be back at five o'clock. He was on the jetty again at five o'clock, but still the launch was not there. He went home and wrote a letter to Mr. Bentley pointing out how difficult it was for him to go over to Pootung during his hours of consultation, and suggesting that Dr. Burge might be called in. He did not then know that Dr. Burge never attended ladies. He heard no more from Mr. Bentley, and some other doctor was called in.

   Mr. Wilkinson said his client felt that he must contest the claim as the services Dr. Blanc agreed to perform were never rendered.

   Mr. Bentley, the defendanyt, gave evidence to the effect that he agreed with Dr, Blanc to attend his wife during her confinement, and any subsequent consequential illness for Tls. 60. Seventeen days after her confinement his wife returned to Pootung.  On the 17th March, he wrote a letter to Dr. Blanc that his wife had high fever and asked him to come over in the launch, which would be at the jetty at two o'clock. The launch left for Shanghai at one o'clock and returned at four without the doctor. On the evening of the 18th defendant wrote another letter to the plaintiff and sent it by the local Post. Dr. Blanc did not come, and on the 19th defendant called in Dr. Cooper, who found Mrs. Bentley then in partial paralysis. She subsequently died.

   His Lordship suggested to Mr. Wilkinson that he could not contest the case further. A letter was written to Dr. Blanc, but for some reason or other he could not find the launch. Then he heard nothing more, and the fact that a letter was posted was no proof at all that it was received. They all knew what the Local Post was, and he could not assume that because a letter was sent by the Local Post it must have been received. There was no shadow of evidence to prove that Dr. Blanc received a second letter. He (his Lordship) could quite understand that out of certain circumstances a very unfortunate and terrible result had followed, and he could understand that the defendant felt a disinclination to pay under circumstances which he thought were not such as they should be; but looking at the legal aspect of the case the defendant would be bound to pay. But it would be a graceful act on Dr. Blanc's side if he would take a verdict without costs.

   Mr. Ellis said his client was quite prepared to do so.

   His Lordship - I may say I think it is a proper termination to such a dispute. There is not the slightest reflection upon Dr. Blanc and his medical character, and on the other side, I can quite understand the sad circumstances which have caused the dispute.

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