Corcoran v W. R Jacob and Company, Ltd

CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date01 January 1945
Date01 January 1945

Supreme Court.

Corcoran v. W. & R. Jacob & Co.
W. & R. JACOBand COMPANY, LIMITED, Defendants (1)

Slander - Privilege - Malice - Honest belief - Witness's demeanour under cross-examination - Allegation of falsity of plaintiff's case - Obstinate adherence to belief in truth of defamatory words - Plaintiff assaulted shortly before slander - Whether evidence of malice - Jury awarding damages for slander and assault - Damages not segregated - Slander verdict reversed on appeal - Case remitted to High Court to assess damages for assault.

New Trial Motion.

The plaintiff, Michael Corcoran, had been employed for several years as a storekeeper by the defendants, Messrs. W. & R. Jacob & Company, Limited, biscuit and confectionery manufacturers. On the 17th September, 1943, he left the defendants' premises on messages on their behalf. Having completed portion of the messages, and having purchased on his own behalf a small copper shovel, he returned to the

defendants' premises with the shovel inserted in the waistband of his dungarees, over which he wore his coat and overcoat, so that a portion only of the shovel was visible. At or near the entry to the defendants' premises the plaintiff was accosted by Thomas Noonan, a commissionaire employed by the defendants, to examine employees with a view to ascertaining whether they had taken property of the company. At Noonan's request the plaintiff agreed to permit Noonan to search him, and went into an adjoining office for the purpose of the search. The removal of the shovel presented the plaintiff with some difficulty, and Noonan, attempting to assist him, pulled his clothes about in such a way that they were slightly damaged. The plaintiff refused to allow the search to continue, and left the office. Subsequently Noonan, in the course of his duties, made a verbal report to the defendant company's welfare officer, in the course of which he stated: "It was a piece of copper ten or twelve inches long that Corcoran had."

The liability to be searched was contained in the defendants' regulations concerning all their employees and notices to that effect were exhibited on their premises.

The plaintiff having been dismissed from his employment for refusing to subject himself to search by Noonan, instituted proceedings against the defendants for damages for (a) slander, (b) assault and (c) wrongful dismissal.

In the course of the trial before Maguire P. and a jury the claim founded on alleged wrongful dismissal was abandoned.

Maguire P., at the conclusion of the evidence, ruled that the occasion on which the words were spoken was privileged.

In the course of correspondence with the defendants prior to the action the plaintiff referred to "spite of which I have evidence," but at the trial he gave no evidence to establish malice. It was contended on his behalf that the jury could infer malice from (a) Noonan's demeanour in the witness box; (b) his allegations that the plaintiff and his witnesses had given false evidence; (c) his persistence in maintaining at the trial what he knew to be false, viz., that it was a"piece of copper," and not a shovel, which the plaintiff had; and (d) the circumstances of the alleged assault. It was admitted by the plaintiff that the defendants' servants were entitled to search employees on their leaving the premises.

The jury found that Noonan had spoken the words complained of, that they imputed to the plaintiff the offence of stealing or attempting to steal, and that, in speaking them, he had been actuated by malice. They also found that Noonan had assaulted the plaintiff, and they assessed damages at £500, but did not segregate the damages in respect of the two issues. Maguire P. entered judgment for the plaintiff for the sum of £500 and costs.

From this, judgment the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court.

The defendants, a limited company engaged in the manufacture and sale of biscuits and confectionery, employed the plaintiff as a storekeeper. In the course of his work the plaintiff left the defendants' premises on messages for them, and, while so engaged, purchased a small shovel on his own behalf. On his return to the defendants' premises he carried the shovel inserted in his...

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3 cases
  • McNamara v Dunnes Stores (Parkway) Ltd
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 9 March 2017
    ...had stolen items from Dunnes Stores, the defendant cited the Supreme Court decision of Corcoran v. W. R. Jacob and Company Limited [1945] I.R. 446. The defendant contended that it was authority for the proposition that an honest belief by a witness called on behalf of the defendant that a l......
  • Nolan v Laurence Lounge t/a Grace's Pub
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 8 June 2018
    ...Maher S.C. contends that the correct statement of the law is that set out in Coleman and Corcoran v. W. & R. Jacob and Company Limited [1945] I.R. 446. He argues that consistent with the reasoning in McNamara, the court should disallow the defence of qualified privilege where the defendant ......
  • Kirkwood Hackett v Tierney
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1954
    ...JJ. (1) 3 Q. B. D. 237. (2) [1891] A. C. 73. (3) L. R. 4 Ex. 232. (4) 18 L. T. 527. (5) [1892] 1 Q. B. 431. (6) [1917] A. C. 309. (7) [1945] I. R. 446. (8) [1950] W. N. 83. (9) [1891] 2 Q. B. 341. (10) (1872) L. R. 4 P. C. 495. (11) [1917] S. C. 15. (12) (1858) E. B. & E. 346. (13) [1895] 2......

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