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Colonial Cases

Dalvy v. Damrell, 1899

[negligence by bailee]

Dalvy v. Damrell

Civil Summary Court, Shanghai
Bourne DJ, 21 February 1899
Source: North China Herald, 27 February, 1899

Shanghai, 21st February.
Before Mr. F. S. A. Bourne, Deputy Judge.
  This was a case in which Christopher Damrell, assistant steward on the P. & O. s.s. Coromandel, was the defendant, and Roger Dalvy, proprietor of a cycle depot in Foochow Road, the plaintiff.
  It was an action to recover $99.99 stated to be the value of a bicycle hired out by the defendant and not returned. It was stated by plaintiff's manager that the machine was hired on the 12th inst. defendant agreeing to pay 40 cents an hour for use. On the following day he came back to the store and said he had lost the bicycle but that he had communicated with the police with the object of tracing it. If the police did not succeed in finding it he was prepared to pay $30 compensation.  They had since written to the captain of the Coromandel but had received no reply.
  Defendant, a young man, was sworn and admitted having hired and lost the bicycle. On the day in question he was out riding in company with five others along the Bubbling Well Road. In the evening they stayed some hours at St. George's Hotel. At half-past nine he went out and lighted his lamp, the bicycle standing in the open near the verandah. He afterwards went back into the Hotel and on his return a few minutes later the machine had vanished. He objected to the price pit on the machine by the plaintiff. It was a very old-fashioned bicycle, low-geared, and lacking various accessories. It appeared to have been in use a very long time.
  Captain Tillard of the Coromandel intimated that if any letter had been addressed to him on the subject by the plaintiff he could only say he had not received it. He first heard of the affair on Sunday last. The plaintiff too was unable to supply any information in the shape of a description of the bicycle or its number to aid the police in seeking its recovery, which was very hard on the defendant.
  Plaintiff remarked that the bicycles were not numbered. It was not an old bicycle, as alleged, but on the contrary was specially chosen by the defendant as being above the average. They let out inferior wheels at 24 cents an hour.
  Defendant added in regard to the matter of price, that he stipulated with the Chinese assistant to have the machine for the half day for $2, and no hourly agreement was entered into.
  Mr. Bourne said it was clear that the defendant must pay for the machine, but how much he would have to decide after.
  Albert Edward Ritchie, also of the Coromancdel, spoke to being in company with Damrell on the 12th inst. and expressed the opinion that the machine was too highly appraised. It was an old machine and looked as though it had had quite three months' hard wear.
  M r. Bourne said that the defendant was bailee of this bicycle and as such he was bound to show ordinary care and vigilance and take the same care of it as a prudent and cautious man would of his own property. It was clear to him that the defendant had shown negligence and that he was liable for the consequences. He could not, however, get clear evidence as to the value but he would enter judgment for the plaintiff for $80 with costs. If the machine was found defendant must return it to the plaintiff and get his money back.

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