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bound to make the proper entries, and would not be liable for supplying the article, even if he knew or suspected it to be not ordered by a doctor. But the danger to the public is wider. A prescription may be copied by some person other than the one for whom it was ordered, and in this way poison may be obtained with little or no restriction under the shield of a pseudo prescription, and the safeguards provided by the Pharmacy Act rendered nugatory. It may, moreover, be open to argument whether a chemist may freely dispense what purports to be a prescription without further inquiry.

Is there not some duty cast upon him to satisfy himself that a prescription is genuine ?

No doubt there are practical difficulties in the way of applying this principle, but, as was said by the Queen's Bench Division in Pharmaceutical Society v. Wheeldon (62 L. T. Rep. 727), we are not impressed by that argument. If a chemist cannot without some trouble ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of a prescription presented to him, he should decline to make it up, or, at any rate, he should treat it as the sale of a poison requiring the observance of all the statutory regulations.

The medical man is not altogether free from criticism in cases where he prescribes a dangerous drug. We know it is not customary for doctors to in any way limit the repetition of their prescriptions, but it is quite a question whether they should not do so. Under the law as it stands the doctor virtually helps the chemist to do indirectly what the latter is prohibited from doing directly. If there is any merit at all in our poison laws, a medical prescription should be clearly defined for the purposes of those laws and its operation strictly limited. It should not be made a cloak for the commission of those very evils which the Legislature has endeavoured to prevent.

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One of the most recent decisions on underwriting contracts in the Court of Appeal is Hemp, Yarn, and Corrlage Company Limited ; Hindley's case (74 L. T. Rep. 627; (1896) 2 Ch. 121).

The facts of the case are simple, and well illustrate the underwriter's liabilities. The London and Northern Assets Corporation, promoted in 1892 the Hemp, Yarn, and Cordage Company Limited. Mr. W. H. Hindley, on the 17th June 1892, addressed to the promoters an anderwriting offer to apply on the usual terms for 400 ordinary shares of £5 in the Hemp, Yarn, and Cordage Company, the commission payable being £1 per cent. Thus, if the contract had been made, Hindley would in any event get £20 commission, and if the public did not subscribe he would incur the liability of paying £2000 for 400 shares in a company, with which ex hypothesi the public would have nothing to do. On the 20th, 21st, and 22nd June the capital was offered to the public, but the issue was a failure, only nine applications having been made. Upon ascertaining this fact, the promoters on the 1st July accept Mr. Hindley's offer. The report does not say whether they paid Mr. Hindley his £20 ; but they did, as authorised by the offer, apply for 400 shares in his name, and his name was placed on the register for those shares. On the 21st May 1894 the company was wound-up, and on the 27th Nov. 1895 the liquidator made Mr. Hindley a contributory for unpaid calls. From incorporation to liquidation Mr. Hindley acted as a shareholder, he received certificates and signed proxy papers. When, however, in the liquidation proceedings Mr. Hindley became aware of the fact that his underwriting offer had not been accepted, and thereby made a contract till the 1st July 1892, he repudiated his liability and contended he was not a shareholder. Lord Justice Kay says: “If we were to allow people to invent this kind of defence after a winding-up has begun, and four years after they knew perfectly well that they were shareholders, it would open an alarming prospect of litigation.”

The offer of Mr. Hindley contained at the end these words : “ This engagement is binding on me for two months from this date.” The Court of Appeal, with some expressions of doubt on the part of Lord Justice Lindley, construed this limitation of time in that document to give the promoters a free band during those months to accept the underwriting offer. Lord Justice Lindley expressed an opinion that the offer must imply acceptance “ within a reasonable time," and that the two months' clause made it ambiguous. It may be that a reasonable time is the accu. rate legal expression for the time within which the offer was to be accepted ; but it would be most unreasonable to extend that time till the event is known and the liability offered ascertained. No business man could surely have any hesitation in construing this time limitation, which is inserted as a matter of course in every underwriting offer. It means that the offer, if accepted, must be accepted before allotment, and that, if accepted, and for any reason the appeal to the public should be postponed for two months, that then the contract is not to operate.

This reading of the time limitation by Lords Justices Kay and Lopes in itself settled the question, but the Court of Appeal unanimously decided that, even if the acceptance were too late to make the underwriting offer a contract, Mr. Hindley was liable as a shareholder by estoppel, and refer

was made to Oakes v. Turquand (16 L. T. Rep. 808; L. Rep. 2 H. of L. 325) in support of that proposition. The doctrine of estoppel is always difficult to apply and requires a most careful appreciation of the true position of the person in whose favour the estoppel is invoked.

In Oakes v. Turquand the House of Lords decided that, where a man became a registered shareholder under an existing though voidable contract, he could not repudiate after the intervention of a third party, viz., the liquidator, who had become interested.

If, therefore, in Mr. Hindley's case acceptance before allotment were a condition of the contract to take shares, Oakes v. Turquand cannot apply ; his contract was void, incapable of ratification and incapable of repudiation. His name on the register was that of a mere stranger. On this cardinal assumption we know of no legal principle which makes his acts such as receiving certificates or voting available against him. Such acts, there being no contract capable of ratification, have no legal effect whatever.

It is, however, clear that, apart from Oakes v. Turquand, if there was an estoppel between Mr. Hindley and the company itself, that estoppel would operate in favour of the liquidator of the company.

The question then would be, had Mr. Hindley, by the letter of the 17th June 1892, given his agent an apparent authority on which the board of directors were as reasonable men entitled to act in allotting shares to him ? and did the board of directors, ie, the company, so act to its detriment? The Court of Appeal decided both these questions in the affirmative, and therefore brought the case within the definition of estoppel in pais laid down by the Court of Common Pleas in C'arr v. London and North-Western Railway Company (31 L. T. Rep. 785 ; L. Rep. 10 C. P. 316). It is evident that it was not only to their advantage, but vital to their office as directors, that the board of the Hemp, Yarn, and Cordage Company Limited, who had received no money from the public, should get as much as possible from the underwriters. This consideration affecting both the reasonableness of their action and the damage resulting to their company thereby, was not apparently brought to the notice of the Court of Appeal.

In Ex parte Harrison (69 L. T. Rep. 204) an underwriter was held liable upon similar reasoning. In that case the underwriting contract was perfect in form, and a complete authority, the letter conditioning the underwriter's liability to an express acceptance not having been brought before the directors. It is, however, uncertain, as will be seen by comparing these decisions with the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Brussels Palace of Varieties v. Procter (10 Times L. Rep. 72) and Re Harrey's Oyster Company; Ex parte Ormerod (70 L. T. Rep. 795 ; (1894) 2 Ch 474), with what restrictions the doctrine is to be applied. In these cases a request to underwrite was in the letter

UNDERWRITING CONTRACTS.--I. In former days the word “underwriter” denoted an “insurer of ships." Outside the circle of business men who were connected directly or indirectly with Lloyd's, the public had small interest, and consequently little knowledge, of what that word signified. At the present day it conveys to the man remotely connected with all or any business transactions a vague conception of something to do with the art of company promoting. Indeed, the usual meaning now attached to a once highly esteemed vocation is not favourable to the public, and to say that the "underwriter” is a persona grata to our Bench would be far from accurate. It might, indeed, hardly fall short of the truth to affirm that some very learned and impartial judges are considerably affected by moral responsibility when it becomes a painful duty to adjudicate upon the rights of the insurer of limited company flotations. The few deci. sions that have thrown light upon the responsibilities of the underwriter certainly tend to show that the art is one of no inconsiderable risk. The money earned by a successful underwriting is a profit not of real work, but the mere price paid for a temporary and past risk. A short description of how that profit is made shows, too, that directly or indirectly the public who apply for sbares in the numberless companies that are launched upon the infinite ocean of public credulity are in fact the paymasters. It is on thi account perhaps that judges have not yet been reported to express regret when enforcing the liability of the underwriter.

It will conduce to simplicity to take a rare example of flotation, viz., where a property or business is turned into a limited liability company by the real owner.

The vendor in transferring his property to a company not unnaturally desires to be paid his purchase price, and inasmuch as that usually represents in a large proportion scrip of the company, that the future of the company may be assured so as to make the scrip valuable, it is necessary for him to have some further guarantee than the chance favour elicited by his prospectus, and for this service the underwriter sells his aid, to subscribe for a certain number of shares, for a certain commission on the total, the number of such shares to be reduced in proportion to the application of the public for shares. Thus the percentage of the share issue of the whole capital taken by the public is deducted from the amount underwritten, but his commission is payable on the whole amount he has become liable to take in the event of no public subscription.

It will be thus seen that, where the underwriters are solvent, and sufficient shares are underwritten to secure a working capital, the flotation of the company is assured: the vendor has, in order to secure this advantage, to pay the underwriter his commission. That commission varies in inverse ratio to the chance of public subscription, because, if the underwriter thinks it probable that he will be called upon to take up all or a large proportion of the shares he has underwritten, he requires a large commission. The vendor has therefore to make provision for this item in promotion expenses when he fixes the price at which he sells his property to the company. It has long been decided that a limited liability company has no power to issue shares at a discount; at the same time it is apparently perfectly legal for that company to pay a purchase price admittedly increased in order that the vendor may be reimbursed this underwriting commission : (Ex parte Audain, 42 Ch. Div. 1).

It will be readily seen that the relative positions of vendor and proposed underwriter before allotment is this: A promise by the vendor to pay a fixed commission, and promise by the proposed underwriter that in consideration of such fixed commission he will apply up to an agreed amount proportionately as the public do not. If an underwriting offer be made to the vendor, and the vendor can wait till after the public allotment before accepting, his position is this : If the public do not subscribe he can pay the underwriter the commission, and make him pay for all the shares ; if the public subscribe for all the share3, he need pay no commission, not having accepted the offer.




& condition precedent to the agent's authority to apply in the underwriter's name, and upon proof that no request had been made the underwriter escaped liabil The onl reason why the estoppel in these cases should not run against the underwriter is upon the hypothesis that the directors are bound to inquire whether the request has been made ; and, if they are under sugh duty towards underwriters in this respect, it is difficult to see how the doctrine of estoppel could ever be applicable except where there is a complete contract.

However regular the contract produced to the board may be, it appears upon another ground that to preclude the underwriter from showing that in fact there was no authority is a wider application of the doctrine of estoppel in pais than has bitherto obtained. In the propositions laid down by the present Master of the Rolls in Carr v. London and North-Western Railway Company (31 L. T. Rep. 785; L. Rep. 10 C. P. 307) the person relying upon the estoppel must in all cases show that he has acted to his detriment except where the representation is knowingly a false one.

Lord Justice Brett clearly meant that the act done in pursuance of the representation should alter eo instanti the position of the person subse. quently relying upon the estoppel for the worse. It cannot be contended that the company, to which the public has not subscribed, alters its position detrimentally by allotting sbares to the underwriter. This point was apparently not brought to the attention of the court in Ex parte Harrison (ubi sup.), where the company was actually enforcing the disputed contract by making a call against the underwriter as a shareholder. So far as we are aware, all definitions of estoppel in pais contain the element of an alteration of position to the prejudice of the person invoking the estoppel except, perhaps, Baron Parke in Freeman v. Coke (2 Ex. 654), and perhaps also Lord Justice James in Ex parte Adomson (38 L. T. Rep. 917; 8 Ch. Div. 807). These cases were, however, considered in the Common Pleas when Carr v. London and North-Western Railway Company practically enumerated the propositions of estoppel ; and we venture to think that the true limit is laid down by the learned editors of Smith L. C. in their notes of the Duchess of Kingston's case (S. L. C., vol. 11, p. 945, 9th edit.), in these words, “and that it is as unjust to allow the position of the person relying on the estoppel to be made better as it would be to allow it to be made worse by reason of the innocent representation of the person sought to be estopped.”

AN ILLUSTRATION. Last week (before Mr. Justice Charles without a jury) The North Charter. land Exploration Company Limited v. Rowe was heard. This was an action brought by the North Charterland Exploration Company Limited, of Winchester House, Old Broad.street, against Mr. A. H. Rowe, of Edwins Hall, Woodham Ferris, Chelmsford, Essex, to recover £880 in respect of an allotment, on the 22nd May 1895, of 1760 shares in the plaintiff company.

Cock, Q.C and W. E. Hume-Williams appeared for the plaintiff ; Crump, Q.C. and H. C. Barker for the defendant.

Cock, Q.C., in opening the case for the plaintiff company, said that the action was brought to recover calls due upon an allotment of shares made to him on the 22nd May 1895. The defendant made his application in consequence of an interview with a friend of his, who, however, was not the agent of the plaintiff company. Upon the 24th April the defendant wrote to the Mozambique Gold Land and Concessions Company agreeing to subscribe for 2100 shares to be issued under the prospectus which had been shown him by his friend, and authorising them to apply for such shares. The authority to the Mozambique Company was irrevocable till the 15th May 1895. On the 3rd May the Mozambique Company wrote to the defendant informing him that they accepted the terms of his anthority upon the terms of a prospectus which they inclosed. Under these circumstances the defendant allowed them to apply for the shares without any objection. On the 22nd May the Mozambique Company applied for the shares, and upon the same day they were allotted, and notice was given to the defendant. On the 23rd May the defendant wrote to the plaintiff company saying that he declined to accept the shares. On the 30th May the secretary of the Mozambique Company wrote to the defendant saying that, as he had sent no revocation of his authority to make the application, the allotment had been made to him. He quoted Blackwood Wright on Principal and Agent in support of his contention that the agency was extended by defendant's conduct after receipt of the letter of the 3rd May.

Mr. Stronge, secretary of the plaintiff company and the Mozambique Company, was cross-examined by Crump, Q.C., and said that on the 4th March the skeleton prospectus of the plaintiff company was printed. Between the 4th March and the 3rd May 1895 there were seven proofs of the prospectus. In the last draft prospectus issued before the underwriting letter the capital of the plaintiff company was stated to be £750,000 and the purchase money £650,000. In the prospectus sent to the defendant by the Mozambique Coinpany on the 3rd May the capital was put at £1,000,000 and the purchase money at £700,000. He did not know upon which proof Mr. Rowe underwrote.

Mr. Rowe, the defendant, examined by Crump, Q.C., said that he saw the prospectus upon which he agreed to underwrite the shares at the offices of a friend, Mr. Hamrott. The capital was £750,000, and he believed the purchase price was £300,000. The amount of the capital and purchase money influenced him in deciding to underwrite. He believed that his liability to underwrite lapsed on the 15th May, as he had no copy of the underwriting letter in his possession. Out of the £1,000,000 capital £12,000 was subscribed by the public. He noticed that the prospectus sent on the 3rd May differed as to the amount of the capital and purchase money from that on which he had given the authority to the Mozambique Company. He did nothing, as he did not think it concerned him. The actual allotment was made on the terms of a prospectus of the 17th May.

Crump, Q.C. raised three points on behalf of the defendant: (1) That

there was no contract of agency, as the defendant and the Mozambique Company were not ad idem ; and that no conduct of the defendant could create a contract which did not exist. The proposition in Mr. Wright's book was a dangerous evolution of the doctrine of ratification. (2) That the defendant was entitled to repudiate when the allotment was made, on the ground of the difference in the prospectuses, notwithstanding that he had seen the alteration on the 3rd May; and (3) That the allotment was not in accordance with the underwriting letter, but an allotment on the basis of a prospectus of the 17th May which the defendant had never seen. Farther, he contended that, under such an underwriting letter, it was a condition precedent that the defendant should have notice of the deficiency in the public subscriptions before he could be called upon to subscribe. He cited in support of his propositions : Carmichael's case (1896) 2 Ch. 613); Hindley's case (Ib. 133) ; Ormerod's case (70 L. T. Rep. 795; (1894) 2 Ch. 474 ; Audain's case (60 L. T. Rep. 684; 42 Ch. Div. 1; and Peel's case (16 L. T. Rep. 780 ; L. Rep. 2 Ch. 674).

Cock, Q.C. having replied,

CHARLES, J., in giving judgment, said:-In this case the liability of the defendant entirely turns upon whether he is still responsible upon the terms of the underwriting letter of the 24th April. Upon the 27th April that letter was acknowledged by Mr. Stronge, the secretary of the Mozambique and the plaintiff company. The contention upon behalf of the defendant is, that a final contract was entered into by which he authorised the Mozambique Company to apply for shares in the plaintiff company upon the terms of the draft prospectus as it then existed. That draft stated that the capital was £750,000 and the purchase money £650,000. But, even though the letter of the 27th April was an acceptance of the defendant's offer contained in bis letter of the 24th April, I do not think that Mr. Rowe was relieved of all responsibility of underwriting these shares until something else happened. I should have thought, when be received the letter of the 3rd May from the Mozambique Company, that he would at once have written to them declining to have anything to do with the prospectus that was then sent him. Not having heard from him on the 22nd May, I think they were right in considering that they were still his agents to apply for the shares in the company with its altered capital. I therefore think that the application by the Mozambique Company was well made. Further, I do not think that it was a condition precedent that the defendant should be told what amount the public had subscribed to prevent liability attaching to him upon an application made by the Mozambique Company for the shares. Audain's case does not apply to the present contract. It was further argued upon the defendant's behalf that the application was not even made upon the prospectus inclosed with the letter of the 3rd May, but upon a prospectus of the 17th May ; but the prospectus of the 17th May was substantially in agreemeut with that of the 3rd May. I must, therefore, give judgment for the plaintiffs for £880 and costs. If £440 is brought into court within ten days there will be a stay of execution.

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14.60 The movement, it might have been expected, would have been tbe contrary of that which is here recorded. Actions are, on the whole, tried more expeditiously than they once were. Order XIV. enables summary judgment to be obtained in many cases which would have gone to trial before this procedure existed ; and it might have been supposed tbat the inducements to enter an appearance for the sake of gaining time having diminished, there would have been a diminution of the number of appear

The most probable explanation of the increase in appearances is that many actions before 1875 were on contracts for sums under £50. To these actions the County Court Act 1867, s. 5, and Order LXV., r. 12, applied. Knowing that he will receive only County Court costs, the plaintiff in such actions generally brings them in the County Court. The


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smaller actions thus being removed to the County Court, a large part of the residue consists of substantial actions in which the defendant has a strong inducement to appear and dispute his liability.

Between appearances in the Central Office and in the district registries is a marked difference. In the former they were about 64 per cent. of the writs in 1891-94 ; in the latter about 25 per cent., that is to say, about the same proportion as the appearances in London before the Judicature Act. On the other hand, in large towns with district registries—wherever, speaking generally, the writs issued exceed 500 a year--the proportion of appearances approximates to that of London.

In judgments entered there has been a change somewbat similar to that which has taken place in regard to appearances. In 1871-75 they were only 36-6 per cent. of the writs : in 1891-94 they had risen to 44 4 per cent.

Proportion of Judgments

entered to Writs. 1891-94

44:43 per cent. 1886.90

45:12 1881-85

42:49 1876-80

38:12 1871-75


The curve of trials differs much from that of writs at page 41. In 1879, when the latter were at their maximum, the trials wero fewer than in 1892. It will be noted that the proportion of trials to writs is of lato slightly increasing--another sign, in addition to those already noted, that defen." dants have, oftener than they had, points of defence in which they believe.

Proportions of Actions tried, &c.,

to Writs of Summonsos. 1891.94

3•62 per cont. 1886-90

3:41 1881-85

2.89 1876-80

2:56 1871-75

3.95 The proportion of undefended to defended actions is somewhat uncertain. The distinction between the two classes seems clear ; but from inquiries which have been made it appears that the returns as to this matter from all circuits have not been prepared in the same manner. The following table relates to actions tried in London and Middlesex only. It will be noticed that there has been a marked decrease in undefended actions since 1871-75. The effect of Order XIV. has, no doubt, been to bring to an end at an early stage cases which would otherwise have gone to trial and been returned as undefended.


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7.77 One great difference between civil and criminal returns is due to the fact that the rights of parties in criminal matters are not determined without trial or inquiry before a judge and jury or by a court of summary jurisdiction, whereas the great majority of civil disputes are decided with. out trials ; and this holds good both of the High Court and the County Courts. By far the largest number of judgments for the plaintiff are for default of appearance. As will be seen from the comparative table, such judgments tend to diminish-another sign that actions now involve real disputes oftener than they did.

Percentage of Judgments

in default of Appearance 1891-94

63.5 1886-90

64:1 1881.85

65.5 1876-80

72.2 1871-75

72:7 Next in number to judgments for plaintiff for default of appearance come judgments for want of defence and other cases of default. They were about 14 per cent. in 1871-75, and in 1891.94 about 5 per cent—a further sign of the greater reality and substance of litigation.

One remarkable fact is the increase of judgments obtained under Order XIV. Since 1876.80 they have increased by 52-2 per cent. They were 13.7 per cent of the total judgments entered in 1876.80; in 1891-94 they were 22.4 per cent. It may be added that judgments obtained in this manner far exceed the judgments obtained after trial.

For some reason-whether owing to the present bankruptcy law or the ase of other modes than execution of enforcing, or obtaining the fruits of, judgment--there has been a decline in the proportion of executions to judgments. In 1859-62 the proportion to judgments was 72 per cent.

Proportion of Executions

to Judgments. 1891-94

49:70 per cent. 1886-90

60.14 1881.85

63.72 1876-80

65.25 1871.75 ...


There has been a considerable decline in the number of actions tried by a jory, especially since the Supreme Court Rules of 1883. Except in certain cases actions can be tried before a judge and jury only by an order, and the result bas been to greatly diminish such trials. In 1875-76 they were more than 92 per cent. of the whole ; in 1891-94 they were about 47 per cent. The references of actions, it may be added, have steadily diminished as trials without juries have increased.

It may be mentioned that the percentage of cases in which juries disagree has scarcely changed since 1876. It bas remained about 0 2 of the whole.

In the trial of indictable offences at quarter sessions and assizes, the Crown succeeds in about 82 per cent. of all cases; in the trial of civil actions, the plaintiff succeeds about the same number of times. Including, however, judgments for plaintiff for want of appearance or want of defence, &c., the plaintiff succeeds about thirty times for once the defendant succeeds. If the opinion above expressed be true, viz., that litigation in the High Court is more concerned than it once was with substantial disputes, we should expect to find that verdicts for defendants were increasing, and this appears to be the case.

Proportion of Verdicts

for Defendants. 1891-94

24.8 per cent. 1886-90

25.3 1881.85

25.2 1876-80

25:3 1871-75



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13:17 The returns record a corious fact as to writs of elegit. The decision in Re Gourley (15 Ch. D. 447) in 1880 made known to the legal profession that the seizure of goods under a writ of elegit was not within the Bankruptcy Act 1869, that a sheriff might sell a judgment debtor's goods under an elegit before the holding of an inquisition, and that from the time of seizure a judgment creditor became a secured creditor within sect. 16 of the Bankruptcy Act 1869. The result was that elegits increased in a remarkable manner, from 312 in 1880 to 1516 in 1881, 2828 in 1882, 4209 in 1883. Sect. 146 of the Bankruptcy Act 1883 altered this state of the law, and confined elegits to lands and interests therein ; wbereapon the number of elegits fell. In 1885 they were 172, and in subsequent years they have generally been under 1 per cent.

The following table shows the average annual number of actions tried or otberwise disposed of in London and Middlesex and on circuit since 1876. The increase in the trials in London and Middlesex, and the decrease in those on circuit will be noticed.


5:1 Roughly stated, in actions tried the chances are as 3 to 1 in favour of the plaintiff. In actions for libel, slander, and certain other torts the proportion of verdicts for plaintiff is less ; in actions for goods sold and delivered, it is considerably greater.

In classifying actions a difficulty unknown in classifying crimes is experienced. The indictment or summons specifies the offence, and the power of amendment at trial is limited. In the County Courts there are no pleadings, and the plaintiff need not state the form of his action; in the High Court, where pleadings are used, it is sufficient to state the

material facts” relied upon, and they may, according to the view of the court, disclose an action in contract or in tort. In an indictment, each count must state one offence and no more ; and different felonies can be joined in the same indictment only in a limited number of cases. There is no exactly similar restriction as to actions. Several causes of action may be joined ; and there may be alternative causes of action. In the Court for Crown Cases Reserved the indictment under consideration is the same as in the court of first instance.. An action, on the other hand, may change its form in the Court of Appeal. The court of first instance may treat an action as one contract; and the Court of Appeal, where the proceedings are of the nature of a rehearing, may treat it as one of tort.

To ascertain the total number of any class of actions--actions on covenants to repair, for example-it would be necessary to add to the list for London and Middlesex and the circuits those tried before the official referees and those remitted to the county courts under sects. 65 and 66 of the County Court Act 1888. An attempt is made in Table LXIX. (b) to classify remitted actions, but the returns as to both classes are defective. Subject to this qualification, it may be stated that there has been an increase in one class of cases actions for libel

and in actions both for libel and slander on circuit. The following statement shows the movement in actions for personal torts. The figures given are the percentages of the whole number of such actions to the total number of actions tried in London and Middlesex and on circuit:

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Increase per cent. Decrease per cent.




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1891-94 1886-90 1881-85 1876-80 1871-75

278 271 253 272 325

30.2 34:5 372 42 6 46:1

209 189 166 139 138

22:6 24.2 24.4 218 19.6

436 318 262 227 242

47.2 41:3 38:4 35.5 34:3

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It will be seen that there is a reduction in the percentage of verdicts for £50 and under-from 46:1 to 30·2. This is probably chiefly due to the rule that costs allowed in such actions, if founded on contract, do not exceed County Court costs. It will be noted that the curve tends to flatten ; that the highest point in the curve tends to move towards the right; that the proportion of verdicts between £50 and £100 is greater than in 1871-75 and 1876-80, though less than in 1881-85 and 1889-90; and that the proportion of verdicts for £100 and above has continuously increased. In the two periods, 1871-75 and 1876-80, the highest percentage was under £50; in 1881-85, 1886-90, and 1891-94 it was above £100, another sign that in London, at all events, more of the cases tried in the High Court relate to substantial disputes. For comparison a similar statement and graphic sketch as to the amounts recovered on circuit are inserted.

Amount of Verdicts.-On Circuit.

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No data exist as to the number of such actions begun but not tried or disposed of in court. Assuming, however, that they bear the same proportion to the total of the above-mentioned actions tried, as all actions begun bear to those tried—that is, about thirty to one-the total increase of such actions would be not inconsiderable. Crimes of violence against the person are diminishing (Judicial (Criminal) Statistics for 1893, Intro. duction, p. 75). Is there any connection between the decrease of crimes of violence and the increase in the above actions? Is the civil remedy oftener resorted to by the aggrieved party, and a crime thereby prevented ? Or, when the party aggrieved might perbaps set the criminal law in motion in a court of summary jurisdiction, does he prefer to bring a civil action ? The data do not at present exist to enable one to answer these questions with certainty. There is, however, evidence that litigation in some form often takes the place of crimes of violence; and the explanation of the above decrease mentioned may be found, in part at least, in the increase of actions for causes which, in certain states of society, would have brought about crimes of violence.

Of the total amount recovered by process of law in the Queen's Bench Division, the returos give only the amount recovered by verdict, that is, only a small portion of the whole. Further, no account is taken of verdicts or results which may be as advantageous to the plaintiff as if the verdict were for large gums. In the returns for 1894 are such entries as "pleas withdrawn on terms,” “record withdrawn on terms,” “ judgment for what may be found due on taxation," &c. Some cases, too, are of the nature of test cases; a verdict of 40s. may govern suits involving large sums. The chief results to be noted are a large increase in the amount recovered in London and Middlesex, a decrease in the amount recovered on circuit.

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The table contains details as to new trials. But it is by no means certain that the figures for all the years are accurate. In the case of actions of contract the issues in which were remitted to the County Courts under 19 & 20 Vict. c. 108, s. 26, the jurisdiction to grant a new trial resided in the court from which the issues were remitted; the application being in the first instance for a rule nisi in accordance with the Rules of 1853. The necessity for applying for a rule nisi existed until the County Court Act 1888, by sect. 65, of which remitted actions became County Court actions (Pritchard Pritchard 14 Q. B. Div. 55). Motions for new trials in such actions ceased to be included in motions of the Queen's Bench Division. After 1890 motions for new trials in the High Court are included in the returns of the Court of Appeal.

No statistics of the total amount of costs taxed and allowed in the Queen's Bench Division have in past years been published. This information, however, is given for 1894, and it will be supplied in future years. Approximately, however, the amount can be ascertained. The taxing fee is 27 per cent. on amounts over £4. Excluding bills ander this amount, cases in which costs are fixed without taxation, and the large number of cases in which no bills of costs are delivered, or in which costs are settled without taxation, the average annual amount of costs allowed in 1882-86 was about £314,604 ; in 1890-94 it was about £359,748.

By the kindness of Mr. Lovell, late chief clerk of the Taxing Depart. ment of the Central Office, I am able to give some information as to the nature of bills of costs in the Queen's Bench Division.

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persons whose estates are taken possession of by their relatives or others without obtaining any grant, and the cases of depositors in the savings banks of sums not exceeding £100. But in round figures it may be stated that somewhat more than two persons who die possessed of property make a will for one who does not, that is, there are about twice as many wills and administrations with wills annexed as administrations ; and, contrary to what might have been expected from the spread of education and the increase and general accessibility of solicitors, there has been a slight increase of the proportion of administration.

Percentage of Administrations

to Total Grants, 1891-94

30.6 1886-90

30:1 1881-85

30:1 1876-80

29.6 1871-75


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1.6 Going farther back than 1871-75, one finds little difference in the proportion of persons who died intestate. From the report in 1832 of the Commission of Inquiry into Ecclesiastical Courts (page 566), it appears that the percentage of administrations in 1827-29 was 31.7, or only 1:1 more than in 1891-94. A marked difference will be noted between the proportion of wills and administrations in the principal registry and in the district registries. In the latter the proportion of wills is decidedly greater than in the former. It would seem that the practice of making wills is more common in country districts than in London, from which comes the bulk of the business of the principal registry.

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1891-94 1886-90 1881-85 1876-80 1871-75

31:5 per cent. 31.9 22:7 328 32:3

30:3 per cent. 28.9 28'4 276 26.9

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There will be noted -

(a) The large amount of what are known as “costs out of pocket ; in the case of actions resulting in a verdict for plaintiff, more than 50 per cent. ; in the case of actions with verdicts for the defendant, as much as 61 per cent. What proportions of the cost consist of counsel's fees and payments for witnesses does not appear ; but an analysis of seventythree other bills of costs showed the counsel's fees to be about 26 per cent. of the whole amount.

(b) A disallowance on taxation of (excluding bills of costs in cases under Order XIV.) 19.10 per cent. to 31:58 per cent., a large part of which was no doubt recovered from the client as solicitor and client costs.

(c) An average of £133 for costs brought in after verdicts for plaintiffs, and of £193 in the case of verdicts for defendants. An analysis of the 73 bills above mentioned gave an average of £186.

These last figures are much too high to be taken as the average in cases all round, including actions in the short cause list and simple actions as to goods sold and delivered. It is believed that about £80 would be more nearly correct. In 1893, 2529 actions were tried, and £532,169 recovered ; that is, the plaintiffs probably expended or incurred liability for about £200,000 to recover about half a million.

From 1858 to 1894 the number of applications for writs on the Crown side and the number of writs granted have changed little. Of late, however, there appears to be a decrease in the number granted. There is a marked diminution in the number of informations, whether ex officio or by leave of the court. From the date of the decision in R. v. Labouchere (12 Q. B. 320) there seems to have been a different policy in regard to the granting of informations. Within the period included in the table there was but one writ of outlawry, that in R. v. Tempest in 1859.

The procedure in regard to revenue causes is regulated by the Crown Suits, &c., Act (28 & 29 Vict. c. 104) and Rules of June 1860, Nov. 1861, and Nov. 1863. The proceedings differ from those in ordinary actions, and are usually begun by subpæna ad respondendum or subpæna for intrusion. These have slightly increased. The equity proceedings, which are begun by English informations, are few. The number of trials in equity suits is small; in none of the periods of five years included in the table has the annual average exceeded six; the parties, as a rule, settling long before trial. By various recent statutes an appeal is given by way of special case from the Commissioners of Income Tax, &c. The largest number set down in any one year was 46. By far the largest number of proceedings for infringement of the revenue laws are taken in courts of summary jurisdiction : (see Criminal Statistics, Table XI.)

VII.-THE PROBATE COURT. By far the greater part of the business of the Probate Court is noncontentions, and only a very small proportion of the cases requires the decision of a judge or jury. In 1871-75, 1876.80, 1881-85, 1886-90, and 1890-94 the average annual number of grants of probates and letters of administrations made after the hearing of actions as to the validity of wills was 65, 78, 95, 99, and 113. To show how rarely wills or grants of administration are disputed, it may be pointed out that the annual average of trials in any quinquennial period since 1876 has never exceeded 0-2 of the total number of probates and administratione. There are no statistics of the number of actions or originating summonses in the Chancery Division relative to the construction of wills. But disputes as to the validity of wills are remarkably few; it is understood that only eight probate cases were heard at assizes in 1894, and as many in 1895. So far as the Probate Court is concerned, there is absolutely no foundation for the often quoted saying of La Bruyère that, if there were no wills there need be no courts to settle the differences of men. The annual transfer of a very large amount of property at death is attended by only a very small amount of litigation. Assuming each trial cost the plaintiff and defendant £200, it would be a charge of 10s, on each of the total number of grants of probate and letters of administration.

It is to be noted that the trials before a judge without a jury are increasing, and trials before a jury diminishing. In 1876-80 the former were 60 5 of the whole, in 1881-85, 72:8, in 1886-90, 78:1, and in 1891-94, 78:1. In many of the cases tried are difficult questions of fact as to the credibility of witnesses, the exercise of undue influence or duress, mental capacity, &c.; but there appears to be a growing preference for the decision of a judge on these questions. In view of the large sums in dispute it is natural that there should be an inclination to select a special jury instead of a common jury.

In the total number of grants of probate and letters of administration there is an increase, considerably greater than that in population. A tendency to resort to the Principal Registry rather than the district registries will be noted ; the business in the former has increased nearly twice as fast as in the district registries.

There is a marked diversity in the proportion of wills and administrations in the different District Registries. In some the latter fall to nearly 20 per cent. ; in others they are nearly 50 per cent. It is noticeable that in district registries in agricultural districts, or districts with few large towns such as the Norwich and Bury St. Edmunds districts, the preponderance of wills is great, while in Manchester and Liverpool the grants of letters of administration nearly equal those of probate.

The average annual number of persons who died in 1876-80 was 521,112. So far as the returns show, 45,667, or about 1 in 11, lest property behind them in respect of which grants were made, and of these 32,158, or 1 in 16, had made wills. In 1891-94 the annual average of persons who died was 554,099, and the grants were 58,896, or nearly 1 in 10; of these 40,873, or 1 in 13, had made wills.


The draftsman of the underlease in Re An Arbitration between Morgan and another and the London and North-Western Railway Company (75 L. T. Rep. 226) must be congratulated on bis powers of foresight. In an underlease from the claimants to the Swansea Corporation of certain land for an esplanade and public promenade, there was the unusual proviso that, “in case the demised premises or any part thereof should be required or taken by a railway or other public company under the power or authority of an Act of Parliament, then and in such case it should be lawful for the lessors into and upon so much of the said premises thereby demised as was so required to re-enter.” The powers of re-entry are generally conferred on lessors if the lessees do not observe the covenants; but here the landlords could re-enter in order, not to punish the tenants for their breaches, but to get rid of the underlease, and secure higher compensation from the public body requiring the property. Tbe plan succeeded, and a Divisional Court allowed compensation to the claimants, when the London and North-Western Railway Company required a piece of this demised property, on the footing of the under. lease being determined, and the land being likely to let for commercial purposes for the remainder of the term, and not merely for the sum for which it was let under the underlease.

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CHAIRMEN of general meetings of companies must frequently require some guidance in determining the principles on which they are to conduct the proceedings, and are thankful for such cases as Ernest v. Loma Gold Mines Limited (75 L. T. Rep. 221). There Mr. Justice Chitty decided that a chairman of a general meeting was right in refusing to count proxies on a show of hands. A show of hands is necessarily less formal than a poll, as members do not vote according to their voting power, but each member holding up his hand is counted as only one, and if the proxies had to be examined on such an occasion there might be great delay. Lord Justice (then Mr. Justice) Kay came to the same conclusion in Re The Caloric Engine and Siren Fog Signals Company (52 L. T. Rep. 846). On the other band, in Re Bidwell Brothers (68 L. T. Rep. 342 ; (1893) 1 Ch. 603) Mr. Justice Williams did not follow the Signals Company case, and held that each person present by proxy could vote as one

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