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Present : Lascelles C.J. and De Sampayo A.J.SAWEE v. TEINGHAM.
SO—D. C. Colombo, 33,334,
Action for breach of promise of marriage—Refusal to marry—^Refusalinferred from circumstances.
In an action for breach of promise of marriage, though, there wasno proof of an express refusal to marry, the Court may gather therefusal from the conduct of ' the .defendant and the surroundingcircumstances of the case.
Where the defendant (inter alia) wrote to the plaintiff ashing herto release him from the engagement, and suggested that it was themost honourable course in -the interest of both parties, as he wasliving with a mistress, the Court inferred a refusal to marry.
N appeal from a judgment of the Acting District Judgeof Colombo (F. M. de Saram, Esq.).
A. St. V. Jayewardene (with him F. H. B. Koch), for thedefendant, appellant.;—There was no express refusal to. marry.The promise of marriage was a general promise, and to constitute abreach there must be evidence' Qf an absolute refusal. A refusal tomarry cannot be inferred from conduct. Frost v. Knight; 1 Hochesterv. De la Tout; 2 Halsbuni's Laws of England, vol. XVI., yam. . 504.
Elliott, for the plaintiff, respondent (not called upon).
May 23, 1912. Lascelles C.J.—
This is an appeal from a judgment of the District Judge ofColombo condemning the defendant to pay Es. 5,000 as damagesfor breach of a promise to marry the plaintiff.
The case went to trial on two issues, namely : (1) Did defendant inbreach of his promise to marry plaintiff refuse to marry plaintiff?And (2) if so, what damages has the plaintiff sustained? Theappeal 'was confined to the former issue, with regard to which it was' contended that the learned District Judge was wrong in his findingthat the breach by the defendant of his promise to marry theplaintiff was proved. On the appeal, the case of Frost v. .Knight1W8S relied on as an authority for the proposition that an action forbreach of promise cannot be maintained unless the defendant hasexplicitly expressed his intentiqn not to fulfil the contract, andthat a refusal to carry , out the contract cannot be inferred from
. 1 L. R. Ex. 822.* E. <t B. 078.
12*-3, S. A 99418(8/50)
the conduct of the defendant. But this case, which follows theprinciple laid down in Rochester v. De la Tour,1 dealt with thespecial case where the promise is to marry at or after a certain tiineor is conditional, and the alleged breach of the promise takes placebefore the time had elapsed or the condition had been fulfilled. Nosuch consideration can apply to the present case, for it was not ofthe essence of the contract that the wedding should take place onNovember 9. That date had been fixed as a matter of convenience,but it was not an essential term in the contract that the marriageshould take place on or before that date. Here the question,whether the defendant has committed a breach of his promise tomarry the plaintiff, is a simple question of fact, which must bedecided, apart from any technical considerations, on a survey ofthe whole of the evidence.
The learned District Judge has held that the letter P 3 writtenby the defendant to the plaintiff on September 21, 1911, coupledwith the defendant’s conduct both before and after he wrote theletter, indicates a clear intention on the part of the defendant tobreak off the engagement. I entirely agree with the finding of theDistrict Judge, and think that any other construction of the letterwould be repugnant to good sense. The letter P 3 is as follows: —
The Grand Oriental Hotel,Colombo, September 21, 1911.
Mr dear Blanche,—Excess formality, but under the circumstances1 consider it is necessary.
1 write to askyon in your own interestsas to your futurehappiness,
Ac., to release me from my engagement to you.
My lettertheother daywould have ’ partly explainedeverything,
and all I need further mention is that I have been on Mr. Philpott'strack sinceTuesday morning.I wentup to Yatiyantotaby motor
with Mr. Butofiffe last afternoon and returned here at 6 this morning. Iam going up again now. You can draw your own conclusions, and itwill sufficeif Iwere to say thatMr.Sutcliffe practicallyknows . all
details now, and1 am surewould be gladto tell either Mr.Sawer or
Alf as much ashe knowsabouttheaffair. Unfortunatelyhe cannot
give any detailsto any oneof the lady members of the family. I am
sure that when Mr. Sawer and the other- members of your family hearall details theywill agreewith me thatthis is my mosthonourable
course, and is in both of onr interests.
Please write on to Rozelle. I am -going up by night mail to-night.
I shall in all -probability leave the Island very shortly.
[His Lordship proceeded to discuss the facts, and dismissed theappeal.]
De Sampayo A.J.—I agree.
> E. .f B. 678.
SAWER v. TRINGHAM