Corrigan v Biddulph

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date31 January 1938
Date31 January 1938
Docket Number(No. 486 P.)

Supreme Court.

(No. 486 P.)
Corrigan v. Biddulph.
MICHAEL CORRIGAN
Plaintiff
and
WILLIAM J. BIDDULPH, Defendant (1)

Public authorities protection - Driver of post office van - Injury to person on the public highway - Action for damages brought by person injured against van driver - Whether driver was acting in pursuance, or execution, or intended execution of any Act of Parliament, or of any public duty or authority - Position of the Post Office as a public Department of State administering public services - Whether acts done by person to whom the performance of a public duty has been lawfully delegated are protected - Limitation of time for bringing action - Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893 (56 & 57 Vict. c. 61), sect. 1 - Post Office Act, 1908 (8 Edw. 7,c. 48), sect. 34 - Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 (No. 16 of 1924),sect. 1 (ix).

Motion.

The plaintiff, Michael Corrigan, was a waiter, employed in the City of Dublin, and on the 4th November, 1933, he issued a plenary summons claiming damages for injuries caused by the negligence of the defendant in driving a motor mail van in O'Connell Street, Dublin, on the 14th October, 1932.

The injuries complained of were caused by the van colliding with and violently striking the plaintiff in O'Connell Street. The defendant was a postman in the service of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, and the act complained of occurred while the defendant was driving a post office motor van belonging to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. The action was tried by Sullivan P. with a jury on the 5th and 6th November, 1934, and the jury found for the plaintiff and awarded him £450 damages, but Sullivan P. entered judgment for the defendant on the ground that the action had not been commenced within six months next after the act, neglect or default complained of and therefore the action did not lie by virtue of sect. 1 (a) of the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, which the defendant had pleaded in an amendment to his defence.

From this judgment the plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court by motion and applied for an order that the said judgment be set aside and in lieu thereof that judgment be entered for him.

Plaintiff brought an action claiming damages for injuries received when he was struck by a post office mail van on the public highway. The van

was driven by the defendant who was a postman in the employment of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. The action was tried by a Judge (Sullivan P.) and a jury, and the jury found for the plaintiff, awarding him damages. The defendant had pleaded that the action had not been commenced within six months next after the act complained of, and that therefore the action did not lie by virtue of sect. 1 of the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, and on this defence Sullivan P. entered judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court.

Held by the Supreme Court (FitzGibbon and Murnaghan JJ.; Kennedy C.J. dissenting) that the defendant, when driving the van was doing so in the performance of a duty which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs owed to the public, and further, having regard to sect. 34 of the Post Office Act, 1908, that he was engaged in the direct execution of an Act of Parliament. Accordingly the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, applied, and the appeal must be dismissed.

Cur. adv. vult.

The following is a note of the judgment of Kennedy C.J. but it was not revised by him.

Kennedy C.J.:—

This case comes before us on appeal by the plaintiff from a judgment for the defendant on the trial by the President of the High Court and a jury of an action brought by the plaintiff for damages for negligence caused by the defendant in driving a motor van at O'Connell Street, Dublin, upon the early morning of 14th of October, 1932.

The defendant has denied negligence, and, by leave granted by an order made by Mr. Justice Hanna upon the 16th day of March, 1934, he has further relied upon the following defence:—"The acts complained of were done by the defendant in pursuance or execution or intended execution of the defendant's public duty or authority as a driver of a Post van in the employment, as a postman, of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, and the action was not commenced within six months after the alleged act, neglect or default complained of, and the plaintiff's alleged cause of action is barred by the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, sect. 1 (a)."

Now, the first question argued was that the Post Office was not a public department or administering public services. Originally a monopoly, we may trace the history of it through the Post Office Act, 1908, the Irish Free State Agreement Act, 1922, the Provisional Government (Transfer of Functions) Order, and the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, sect. 1 (ix). It seems to me to be beyond argument that the Post Office is now in this country by statute a public department of State and administering public services, and, whatever be the position in England, the position is perfectly clear in this country. If the Minister had given his fiat and become a defendant I have no doubt the Public Authorities Protection Act would have applied to him, and I should so hold, without finding it necessary to refer to any of the decisions cited, or the English obiter dicta on the point which seem to me to be excluded by the Legislation in this country.

But in this action the...

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2 cases
  • Goodisson v Byrne
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 31 March 1938
    ...of Lord Buckmaster in Bradford Corporation v. Myers, [1916] 1 A. C. 242, at p. 247, considered and explained. Corrigan v. Biddulph, [1938] I. R. 610, followed. Cur. adv. vult. O'Byrne J.:— This action is brought to recover damages for negligence alleged by the plaintiff, and found by the ju......
  • McDowell v Lynch
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 8 December 1952
    ...856. (3) 96 L. J. K. B. 1056. (4) 9 B. & C. 603. (5) L. R. 5 C. P. 534. (6) L.R. 6 Q. B. 724, at p. 727. (7) [1938] I. R. 580. (8) [1938] I. R. 610. (1) [1920] 3 K. B. 96. (2) [1935] 1 K. B. 67, at p. 73. (3) [1933] I. R. 1. (4) 67 J. P. 447; 20 T. L. R. 2. (5) 7 Ir. Jur. Rep. 76. (6) [1926......

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