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Hill v. Philp


SOURCE: THE GLOBE and Traveller, Wednesday, May 26, 1852.

Globe and Traveller


Hill v. Philp.

This was an action against the proprietor of a lunatic asylum for alleged ill treatment of the plaintiff while his patient, by secluding him from all society and preventing his taking sufficient exercise, whereby his recovery was retarded. There was also a count in trover for the conversion of certain papers taken from the plaintiff while in confinement, and given up to his wife after his release. At the trial a verdict was found for the defendant.

Mr. E. James had obtained a rule to show cause why the verdict should not be entered for the plaintiff on the court for trover, or why there should not be a new trial on the ground of the improper reception of evidence and misdirection of the Lord Chief Baron, before whom the cause was tried. The evidence which was objected to consisted of certain letters written to the defendant by the plaintiff's wife, by whom he had been placed in confinement, in which she expressed an opinion that her husband was not benefited by being allowed to communicate with the other patients, and requested that he might be kept in strict seclusion. The misdirection complained of was that his lordship told the jury that if the directions as to the treatment of the plaintiff contained in his wife's letter were honestly followed by the defendant, he was not liable.

The Attorney General and Mr. Bovill now appeared to show cause against the rule, but the notes of the trial having been read, they were not called on by the Court.

Mr. E. James, Mr. Chandler, and Mr. Russell were heard in support of the rule, and contended that the defendant was bound to bring a reasonable amount of skill and knowledge of his own to the treatment of the patient, and that he ought not to have yielded to the suggestions of the wife, and that, however honestly he might have done so, he was liable for any evil consequences which might arise.

The Lord CHIEF BARON said that he had explained to the jury that the defendant in order to be justified must himself have thought that the treatment recommended by the wife was correct.

Sir F. Pollock—Was it not a necessary part of his treatment to take papers from him? Could a madman bring trover if you took a loaded pistol from him? This point was given up at the trial and never mentioned in the reply.

The COURT took thus to consider whether it would be necessary to hear the other side.