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Collins v Godefroy [1831] 1 B & Ad 950; 109 ER 1040; EWHC KB J18

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 28/05/2024 01:16

Judgement for the case Collins v Godefroy

KEY POINTS

  • The duty to attend court requires individuals to be present when summoned for legal proceedings. Ignoring this duty can lead to fines or arrest, emphasizing its role in maintaining the justice system's integrity. 

  • "No compensation for loss of time" means that those attending court, such as jurors, typically do not receive payment for their time away from work. This underscores the civic duty involved in legal participation.

  • Express promises and consideration are key in contract law. An express promise is a clear commitment, while consideration refers to something of value exchanged between parties, forming the basis of a valid contract.

  • Legal rights are the entitlements granted by law to protect individuals from unfair treatment. They include a wide range of protections and are enforceable through legal means, forming a cornerstone of justice and equality.

FACTS

  • Collins (“Plaintiff”) was an attorney who was subpoenaed to testify in a civil suit. Godefroy (“Defendant”) was a party to that civil suit.

  • Godefroy sued another attorney, Dalton, alleging negligence and unskilfulness in conducting an action in the Court of Common Pleas.

    • Collins was subpoenaed to attend the trial as a witness for Godefroy.

    • Collins attended court for six days, but he was never actually called to testify during that period.

    • After his attendance, Collins requested six guineas from Godefroy as compensation for his time and gave notice that he would seek legal action if not paid.

    • When Godefroy indicated he thought the fee had been paid, Collins initiated legal proceedings to recover his compensation.

  • Collins filed an action in assumpsit to recover the fee for his attendance, arguing that he lost time and potential earnings due to his court attendance.

  • Godefroy initially applied to the court to stay the proceedings upon payment of six guineas without costs but later pleaded the general issue, indicating that he did not agree to pay the costs or any compensation for loss of time.

  • The trial judge, Lord Tenterden C.J., nonsuited the Plaintiff, indicating that witnesses subpoenaed to attend court have a legal obligation to do so without compensation for loss of time.

    • Despite Collins's appeal, the court upheld the nonsuit, concluding that there was no basis for legal compensation for loss of time when attending court under a subpoena.

JUDGEMENT

  • The court ruled that a witness subpoenaed to attend court in a civil case was under a legal obligation to comply and could not claim compensation for loss of time.

    • The court noted that attending court under subpoena was a legal duty, not a voluntary action, which meant there could be no implied or express contract for remuneration.

  • The Statute of Elizabeth allowed witnesses to be reimbursed for travel-related costs but did not extend compensation for loss of time, reinforcing the court's stance that witnesses could not claim additional compensation.

    • The court dismissed the argument that an express promise to pay for loss of time was enforceable, stating that such a promise lacked legal consideration, as the duty to attend court was imposed by law.

  • Although the court acknowledged a practice of allowing compensation for professional witnesses' attendance in certain cases during the taxation of costs, it emphasized that these practices did not change the law.

  • The court discharged the rule, confirming that a witness subpoenaed in a civil case could not claim compensation for loss of time.

COMMENTARY

  • When summoned to court, individuals must attend as part of their civic duty, and failure to comply can lead to fines or arrest. In most cases, those attending court, like jurors and witnesses, do not receive compensation for lost income.

  • Express promises and consideration are key elements in contract law. An express promise is a clear commitment, while consideration involves an exchange of value that makes a contract binding.

  • Although there are practices allowing compensation for professional witnesses during the taxation of costs, these practices do not change the legal obligation.

  • The court upheld the nonsuit, confirming that a subpoenaed witness in a civil case has no right to compensation for loss of time.

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