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THE PROSECUTION OF THE REV.…

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ACTIONS FOR FALSE IMPRISONMENT.

ACTION AGAINST A RAILWAY COMPANY.-DAMAGES,…

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ACTION AGAINST A RAILWAY COMPANY.-DAMAGES, £250. The cause of Clarke v. the South-Eastern Railway Compmy" has been tried at the Croydon Assises. The plaintiff in this case, a schoolmaster, complained that as he was about to enter a carriage of the com- pany he was struck by the door and injured, through the carelessness of one of their servants. The plaintiff, who is a young man, was before the accident active and athletic, had a wife and family, and a situation of £130 a year; and he increased his income by going occasionally into the country as a collector. In December last he was on the platform at Chiselhurst station, about to enter the carriage, when the guard came along, and crying out, "Next carriage, Sir," shut the door sharply, which struck the plaintiff on the head, and, as he said, caused the injuries complained. At first he did not think the injuries serious, and shortly afterwards he went to the London Station to complain, and saw the guard, who at first denied it and then said it was the plaintiff's own fault. The plaintiff delivered to him a letter of complaint stating that he was still suffering from the pain the blow had caused, and only asking for an p polony. In January he had an answer from Mr. Eborall, stating that he could not trace the matter to any on Le. According to his ac- count the effects of the blow become more serious, and had not yet disappeared. In fact, his case was that he had sustained a concussion of the brain, and had been incapacitated from the discharge of his duties either as a schoolmaster or collector, and, indeed, according to his case, he was not likely to recover for two or three years. The via ntiff was examined in support of his case, and ac- cording to his evidence the word and ttieblow were almost at tue same moment; so that the guard mii,th;iveshtit the door ai he spoke. The )laiutiff ta;d he remonstrated with the guard, who made no reply. He could not tay whv the guarl had told him not to go into the carriage. Thehlowwas on the tunple, on the side of his head. The blow was. he fa:.d, severe. Pn arriving in London he again remonstrated with the guard, and got his name. When he git home he felt oizzv, and had no sleep at llight, aud next m rui g was un- able to attend to his duties, nor to resume tritm after tile i tervul of several days. V r more tau a fortnight lie could not get up ui til late in tne cay, and the i-e- sult bad besu as above stated The expenses, he saiu, had been £3i, out he could not fay that he had aitually 10. any of his Ealary, because the trustees of the school had been kind enough to continue him for the present notwithstanding his deficiencies. This, however, was their indulgence, and he had lost somewhat iu the way of commission ou his collections. In crots-examination he said he had a hat on at the tinie-a wMeawake. He said that the door struck him as his foot was actually on the step of the carriage, and it struck him on the shoulder and el- bow, but the full force of the blow fell on his head. Asked to show where the blow was, it appeared that it was where the hat would be, and he admitted that it was partly so. Pressed as to whether there was any bruise or marl;, he ad- mitted there was not. It should, however, be f-t.>ted that his countenance and complexion, and the dead look of his eyes, betokened the presence of a -me cause of weakness, whatever it might be, and elicited several questions from the jury to the witnesses who had known or seen him. The plaintiff's wife gave confirmatory evidence, and ob- served she saw a slight swelling on the side of the head. A clergyman who had known him for 13 years gave evi- dence as to his diminished physical and mental energy, an uncertainty of tread, &e. This witness was atkad by the jury whether the plaintiff (whose worn and enfeebled look has been mentioned) had at all altered in appearance since the accident, and he said he had very greatly altered; he used to have a full, fresh face, whereas now it certainly showed great feebleness. His medical attendant, (Mr. Edmunds,) was of opinion that he had suffered a concussion of the brain, and that there was some slow mischief going en in the brain. He was also of opinion that he required total rest, and that his depend- ence on salary retarded his recovery. Those, he stated, who had sustained concussions on the brain were never the same, and its effects were very uncertain. He should say that in about three years he might recover, provided he had some months' entire relaxation. and afterwards mere routine and easy employment. But he douhted if he would ever entirely recover the tone of his mind or be fitted for much mental ex- ertion. In cross examination the witness admitted, however that there was a vast number of ctses in which concussion of the brain occurred without serious consequences There was, however, here, lie thought, very likely an injury to the bone, or nervous tissue under the bone, which might here- after cause serious consequences, and he also thought there might be lnsipient softening of the brain. It appeared that in June last, the plant ff had sent in a claim stating that he had lost half ayear's salary through his being unable to attend to his duties Mr. Serjeant Ballantine, on the part of the company, de- clared that they had been induced to defend the action from the persuasion that the case, if not an (ntire fabrication, was based on gross misrepresentation, and that the plaintiff was not suffering from any injury sustained on this occasion. He dwelt a good deal on what he called the utter untruth- fulness of the plaintiff's claim, seeing that he had not lot a shilling of salary. This, he urged, was of itself sufficient to justify distrust of the case, as it showed a spirit of falsehood, The fact was that it was almost impossiole for anyone to imagine such au occurrence as a blow on the back of the head from shatting a door upon a person whose whole body was interposed, and must necessarily receive the blow. Such a blow, he urged, must on the head be extremely slight, and he relied upon the fact that the plaintiff at first had not claimed damages at all. The real truth was that there was an unprotected female in the carriage who de- sired to travel alone, and this led the guard to prevent the plaintiff from entering the carriage but there was no blow on the head inflicted, and nothing that could have caused the injury suggested, so that the plaintiff's symptoms must have arisen from some other cause. The guard was called to support this defence, and denied that the plaintiff was struck on the head with the door. It was impossible that he should be struck in such a position, as he was merely standing on the platform, nor did he com- plain at the time. But on getting to London the plaintiff taid, Do you know you struck my head r" to which witness replied, It I did I am sorry, but I don't believe I did." Nothing more passed between them. In cross-examination the witness was asked if he had ap- pealed to the lady against the plaintiffs complaint and he said he had not. A fellow passenger of the plaintiff was called to show that he had made no complaint at the time, and he confirmed the guard's account as to what occurred on the occasion of the subsequent complaint. Air. Adams, the eminent surgeon, who had so often given evidence in railway cases. and who had just retired from the post of senior surgeon of the London Hospital and is now consulting kurgeon-was then called on the part of the com- pany, and stated that supposing a concussion of the brain, t;11J symptoms were loss of consciousness (more or less com- plete) and inability to move, and sometimes to see or heai. There was no actual limit to the time of the appearance of thesa sjmptoms, but he should say ten days or a fortnight. Having heard all the evidence in this case, and having examined the p'aintilf, he was clearly of opiniou that there was no injury to the bone and no softening of the brain. There was nothing radically the matter with brain or bone —tnat is, no organic disease of either. Iu cross-examination, he admitted that he was the consulting surgeon of the company. He said he had seen the plaintiff for twenty Uiioutes. He had n ver, he said, seen softeuitig of the brain as the result of an accident, but he admitted that rotteuing of the brain might come on a considerable tirue after a colicussioxi-perhaps as long as one or two years, although such a case had not arisen in his experience Softening of the brain, he said, was a very rare thing. He had not seen a single instance of it as the result of a railway accident. But again, he admitted that disease of the membrane of the brain might be going on as long as pain existed, and he found from what the plaintiff said that he still had pain. In re-examination he said he had never met with softening of the brain except as the re- sult of inflammation, of which there was no symptom here. He had 60 cases a year at the Lendon Hospital of concussion of the brain, and no case of softening of the brain. Being asked by the jury, he said that there were, at an early stage, even symptoms of softening of the brain which would reveal it. In answer to the Lord Chief Baron, he said there might be disease ot the bone, and being asked, taking all the plain- tiff's evidence, assuming it true, how long a time the plaintiff's recovery would take, he said seven or eight months, provided there was an abstinence from exertion and entire rerreation. In cono usiod, he said that such a blow as had been described liiigiii cause such an injury. Mr. Le Gros Clark, surgeon, gave similar evidence, and said he should uot pronounce the plaintiff ill from his present appearance alone, though, contrasting him with his previous condition of health and strength (taking his own account of it), he should think there was disease. There was, however, 110 evidence of disease apart from his own statements, and he found 110 objective sjmptoms of disease in bone or brain. In croas examiimtion, he txplained that he meant external sign-, or appearances or symptoms apartfrom the path nt's own statements. Aud he agreeu with Mr. Adams as to the pos^i- biliiy of disease from such a blow. The fact that the plaint iff was getting better was, he said, inconsistent with the existence of organic disease; nor did he believe there was any such disease. Softening of the brain. he said, never existed in young persons without decided symptoms. And so as to disease of the l.r .in, there would be material interference with cerebral functions, and far greater sensitiveness than appeared in this case to exist. But, in answer to the Lord Ciuef Baron, he said that disease of the bone or brain might after an interval of months, arise from such a blow as was here stated, but there would first be great stupor and intense tenderness of the spot. Being pressed by the Lord Chief Baron as to whether diminished energy of body and mind might not be a symptom of such a disease, he said it possibly might be 10, but had not been so in his experience. In answer to ques- tions from the jury, the witness said he should not, from the mere examination of the plaintiff alone-not having heard of any blow—have supposed that there was anything the matter with him beyond this, that he was an over- worked denizen of this crowded city. Being asked there- upon how he could account for the continuance of pain, he said he could not account for it. This was the whole of the evidence, upon which, after a speech from Mr. Serjeant Ballantine, in which he rather I idiculed the case, Mr M Chambers made an energetic reply on the part of the plaintiff, denouncing the company for an attempt to es- cape the consequences of an injury hy blisting the character of the sufferer as an imposter. The case for the defence in substance came to this, that the plaintiff had invented the injury he complained of. On the contrary, it was, he in- sisted, the defellce which had been trumped up, and was fouHded upon falsehoods of the guard. It was ahsurd to pretend that such a blow could not he infl cted in such a way, and the medical witnesses for the company admitted that such injuries mitrht be the result of such a blow. Unless the plaintiff was entirely fabricating the case, he had re- ceived su,h a blow, and the evidence of the guard himself showed that it was not an entire fabrication, for the plaintiff complained of it almost immediately afterwards, and it was manifest from the guard's own account that such a blow might have been inflicted. The Lord Chief Baron, in summing up the case to the jury, said the question was the same in this a. in so many similar cases, unhappily^ at these assizes-namely whether the injury comp ained of had beeu and was caused by the neg- °' the co,nPany. According to the case for the plain- tiff, the guard slammed the door sharply while he was in the act of speaking if that were so it would he a waste of time to consider whether the company were liable, as of course they would be for the servants of the company could not be justified in so acting. The case, however, was met on the pait of the company by a direct denial. They denied, indeed, the possibility of such a blow in such a way. It was for the jury to judge upon that point; but all he could say was that he should be very sorry for the experiment to be tried in his person. It seemed to him that the effect of slamming the door on a person in such a position might be to infli t such a blow. But of this the jury must judge. He had had a very long experience—perhaps longer than that of any living man—in cafes of this class—that is, railway acci- dents—and he had never until now known a case in which a per- on in a respectable position and of a respectable character had wholly invented such a claim. If the case for the defence was well-founded, the plaintiff must have not only made a deliberate fabrication of his story, but he must have supported it by the most systematic hypocrisy, and finally by the most penistent pei;ry. On iht "t: or hand, at the moment he did not, very piobably, iaiagaie the injury serious. That would easily account tor the absence of any serious complaint at the moment. But if the case was fabricated he must have gone home quite uninjured, and have gone through the mockery of a pretended iIIness- all this in concert with his wife, who supported him. So that it must be supposed that there was a conspiracy between them, and not only so, but he must have managed to deceive all his friends and relations, and even to deceive an expe- rienced medical man. Such things might be possible, but it was for the jury to judge. In the story of the plaintiff there was nothing at all improbable or unlikely on the con- trary, it was quite in accordance with what one constantly observed on railway platforms—the guards running along hastily. alld slamming the doors as they passed along. Under such circumstances, such an accident might easily occur. As to the plaintiff's claim of damage's, it was drawn up by his attorney, and he might easily have supposed that the trustees would deduct his salary on account of his deficiencies of ser- vice. It seemed rather hard to represellt this as a fraudulent chim, The main question, however, as to damage depended upon the evidence of the medical men. Coupling that with the evidence of the relatives, it was clear that the plaintiff had sustained a considerahle injury from some cause; and the meaical men admitted that such injuries might re- sult from such a blow. There seemed to have been a great Joss of physical and mental energy, and this would be a just claim tor compensation. In s. cti a case, where there was any differeliC6 of opinion between medical men, it was well to see how far they were agreed, and the company's medical witmsses admitted that, assumiug all the plaintiff stated to be true, it might have resulted from such a cause. He did not, see, therefore, that there was any very substantial difference between them and if there were probably they would give thdr preference to the opinion of the medical man who had atteuded the plaintiff for months, rather han to those who had only seen him for half-an-hour. It was, it appeared, quite possible that there might be disease of the bone or of the brain, and the mere possibility was not to be dismissed from consideration in the estimate of damages. If it should turn out to be a certainty the jury could give no further compensation. But, even apart trom that, the medical witnesses for the com- pany admitted that th* plaintff required seven or eight months' retirement and recreation, and there was the risk of his losing his emplo) ment All these risks must he con- sidered along with the positive injury he had already suffered for several months. Taking all the circumstances into con- sideration, and including the expenses of medical attend- ance, the jury must assess the damages in the best way they could. The jury, after a brief consultation, gave a verdict for the plaintiff for £250.

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