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Colonial Cases

Li Kao Yao v. Bennertz and Co., 1897



Li Kao Yao v. Bennertz and Co.

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 4 June 1897
Source: North China Herald, 11 June,1897




Shanghai, 4th June.

Before Sir Nicholas J. Hannen, Chief Justice.


   This was a claim by Li Kao-yao, a Chinese steward, against Messrs. Bennertz & Co., for $1,054.89 on account of wages for himself and servants, and messing the foreign officers of the s.s. Wooning from 1st of July,1896. Mr. W. V. Drummond appeared for the plaintiff and Mr. H. P. Wilkinson for the defendants.

   Mr. Drummond, in opening the plaintiff's case, said the issue was raised by the defendants similar to that in other cases which had been before the Court, viz. that the plaintiff agreed that the amount should not become payable until the termination of a dispute then and now pending between the defendants and the Kiangnan Defence and Pay Department.

   Mr. Wilkinson said he did not wish to harass the plaintiff if he were a poor man, but if he had money he (Mr. Wilkinson) thought he should give some security for the costs of the case.

   His Lordship said he did not wish to make a precedent by deciding the application one way or the other, and suggested that, under all the circumstances, Mr. Wilkinson might withdraw his application.

   Mr. Wilkinson said he would do so.

   Li Kao-yao, the plaintiff, gave evidence that he was engaged on the 12th of June, 1896, by Captain Rae, to supply the servants and do the messing for six officers of the s.s. Wooning. He was to receive$20 a month as wages for himself, $20 and $25 for two cooks, $30 for three boys, and $8 for one boy. The mess allowance for the officers was to be $30 a month. At the end of June witness was paid in full, but since then he had only received sums on account. After giving particulars as to how the sum he claimed was made up, he denied that he agreed to wait for his money until after the settlement of any dispute.

   Mr. Wilkinson admitted the correctness of the figures given by the plaintiff.

   Cross examined by Mr. Wilkinson, the plaintiff said he did not sue the defendants when they only paid him money on account because he was put off with promises from time to time. It was not because of the dispute between the defendants and the Chinese authorities.

   Captain Fuhlers having been called in support of the plaintiff's case,

   Mr. Bennertz, of the defendant firm, said that on the 25th of August they explained to the plaintiff the position of affairs with the Chinese authorities, and, moreover, gave him a letter to that effect when a creditor was pressing him (the plaintiff.) The plaintiff agreed to wait for payment until the settlement of the dispute.

   Mr. I. Pollak, junior partner in the defendant firm, also gave evidence.

   Mr. Drummond, in summing up the case on behalf of the plaintiff, contended that not a tittle of evidence had been given to support the defendants' contention that any agreement as to the delay of payment was made with the plaintiff when he entered their service on the 1st of July, although there had been some attempt to show that he was informed of certain circumstances after.

   His Lordship said the present case differed from the others brought against the defendants. As Mr. Drummond had pointed out there was no proof of any new contract between the parties after the 1st of July, and there must be judgment for the plaintiff with costs. He was entitled to sue in his contract of the 1st of July, however unfortunate it might be for Messrs. Bennertz & Co., to imagine that the plaintiff was going on on some other understanding.

   Judgment accordingly for the plaintiff, with costs.

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