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Colonial Cases

Norris v. Quin, 1835

[salvage, opium]

Norris v. Quin

Straits Settlement (Penang)[?]
Source: The Singapore Free Press & Mercantile Advertiser, 24 December 1835





   This was an action to recover Drs. 6000 for money had and received, being the proceeds of 9 chests of Malwa Opium, which the Defendant, Commander of H. M. Sloop of War appropriated  as compensation for services rendered to the schooner Bombay, of which the plaintiff was at the time master during her voyage from Bombay to Pinang.

   The declaration was originally in Trover, but as according to the rule of Law, no verdict is recoverable by the plaintiff under that form of action when brought under circumstances  where salvage is due, unless a specific tender has been previously made, and it appearing that in this case there had been no tender, but both parties being desirous to have the case tried on its merits without the obstruction of legal technicalities, the plaintiff was allowed on motion to alter the form of his declaration from trover to money had and received, the defendant admitting the  sale of the opium at Pinang, and [part page missing left column] ... receipt of Drs. 4910.37 ½ the proceeds of ..... sum of Drs. 3549.65 or Bombay Rupees ...... was claimed for salvage, as one- ....... Schooner, freight and cargo, the latter consisting of 84 ¼ chests of Malwa opium.  The case was then proceeded with, partly on admissions and partly on the testimony of witnesses and other evidence which the defendant brought forward in support of the claim of the salvors, for whom the case made out was briefly as follows.

   On the 18th June last the Raleigh fell in with the schooner Bombay (having left Bombay of the 26th May for Pinang, of which she was then within a few days sail) and was applied to for assistance under the following circumstances:

   Beattie her original commandeer, who had been ill all the voyage died 3 days before the met the Raleigh, and they had also lost a man overboard.  The plaintiff Norris, who as mate, had taken the command, is very ill, in an extremely reduced state and suffering at the time from a severe attack of Tertian ague which altogether disqualifies him from the command and navigation of the vessel - he applied to be taken on board of the Raleigh for medical assistance and writes to her commander Captain Quin, requesting him to take charge of his vessel, and carry her into Pinang - four men from the Raleigh under a midshipman are accordingly sent on board the schooner, they find her with only one cask of water on board for use and another unsafe for drinking; the sails in  use have no hoops to them, and are laced to the mast with cordage; she has no large guns and only five old muskets without flints and half a barrel of gunpowder, which is adrift on the top of her cargo, and out of 15 native lascars on board she has only one who knows how to steer, but, as the plaintiff states, in his protest made at Pinang, no one to whom he could entrust the charge of the deck - he moreover intimates apprehensions of his crew from the debilitated state in which he is - he  recovers during the voyage to Pinang and proposals are made to him to [return] on board of his vessel which he [declines]; both vessels arrive in Pinang on the evening of the 23rd June - and the plaintiff proceeds in a convalescent state on board of his schooner; at his own request an officer from the Raleigh is  here again sent on board of her to remain in charge and continues so until the 27th there having been in the interim a good deal of correspondence between the plaintiff  and defendant on the subject of salvage, the Raleigh's claim to which the plaintiff at that time refused to admit.  No evidence was called for the plaintiff, but it was contended, on various grounds, that the salvage claimed was excessive and disproportionate to the services rendered.

   The Court, however, thought otherwise, and the learned Judges, who tried the case, after weighing all the circumstances of the schooner's situation, conceived that she had been preserved from imminent  danger, and that the meritorious services rendered by the Raleigh fully entitled her captain, officers and crew to the remuneration claimed, which was accordingly adjudged, namely one-sixteenth of the aggregate value of the vessel, cargo and freight, or according to the above estimate, Sp. Drs. 3549.65, with expenses, the Defendant paying back to the plaintiff the surplus proceeds of the Opium, remaining in his possession. 


See letter from Norris, at Bombay, Singapore Free Press &c., 2 June 1836.

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