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AN UNUSUAL-CASE, Press, Volume LV, Issue 16632, 19 September 1919
SPECIALIST SUES FOB FEE.
FATHER HELD LIABLE FOR SON'S
DEBTS. At the Magistrate's Court yesterday, ' before Mr P. L. Hollings, S.M., an interesting caso was dealt with, when Dr. Arthur Boniface O'Brien, a well-known car, throat, and noser specialist (Mr J. 5. Barrett) sued "William V, "Whitt-a . (Mr H. S. Goodman) for £12 12s, in rej spect of an operation performed by him on the defendant's son, who was then eighteen rears of age. The plaintiff said that he attended the defendant's 50:1, who was sent to him by a singing master, for rc-current attacks of tonsilitis. Witnoss advised that the tonsils should he removed completely, th 3 operation boing duly performed. He chargcd £10 10s for the operation, £1 Is i'or consultation, and I£l Is for anaesthetic tees. The charge was fair and reasonable, and was, in fact, much, too low. The reason ho charged so low .a fee was that he thought the defendant had others of a, family to keep. He should roaily have charged a much Jiighcr fee. He sometimes performed similar operations frec>, hut this was for poor people, and was done for charity. To Mr Goodman: He would not deny that about eighteen months ago the defendant had rung up his office and tolil a girl that he had nothing to do with sending the boy to him, and, therc'foro, would not pay tlm account. The operation he performed was 0110 that only specialists carried out, with a few exceptions- The operation was necessary for the boy's lien lib, as the boy had four attacks in six months. J>r. "Wheiter said that the operation performed by the plaintiff was not one performed by ordinary practitioners. The vast majprity of such oases were performed by specialists. AVitness had sent many of his own patients to the plaintiff. Ho considered the foe l charged by the plaintiff reasonable. He did not believe <1 smaller fee than £10 10s would be charged by any other specialist. To Mr 'Goodman: "Witness had performed such an operation himself, but preferred now to leave similar cases to the specialists. He believed he recoivcd £5 5s for the operation ho performed. Tr a patient were only a working man he was charged a low fee; if ho wore a wealthy man tho feo was accordingly made higher.
Mr Goodman submitted that the rase must. fail, as the* plaintiff had failed to show that the boy had boon .sent to him by his father. As a matter of fact, tho fafchor, and also the motlior wero absent from New Zealand at tho time of tlie operation. Tho defendant stated that h® never Ti l risP( ? },is bo - v to Tisifc Br- O'Brien. At tho time of the operation ho. and his wife were both in Sydney. When t\° r^T T 0 'V efl tslp , account ho" rang, up Dr. O Brien. and left a message repudiating all liability in the matter. The hov was earning £2 per week. Witness •ii "? vor , ln y previous dealings with the plaintiff. To Mr J»arrott: Witness met tho plaintiff on tho railway station one day hut did not repudiate the;account thon! although ho liuoiv the operation hfw] been performed. Ho had repudiated another debt of tho boy's on a previous occasion. Witness admitted that he was a bookmaker hvi profession r n ,i^ UKllt oarn as muc!l " as £3000 or i 401)9 a yenr. IJio 3fagistrate said he would reserve his decision on the point of'agency raised hy Jlr Goodman. On tho Court resuming legal argument was heard. Mr Gor>(br:i ]■) ga.id that there was a general feeling among the public that a father was responsible for his boy'n debts, but the facts were otherwise. If ibis were not so, any boy might go and contract heavy dobts, leaving his father to pay them.
. Tie Magistrate: Surelv if a boy's life is in danger his father would be liable to pay for 'medical services 1 Mr Goodman quoted authorities to show tha.t after eighteen years- a. youth was liable for his mra debts. Even in a easo of necessity a father was net liable. _ No proof of'agency had been shown in the present case. Aftor Mr liar re tt had replied, his Worship, in giving judgment, said that the operation became necessary while both parents were in Sydney. The father while there knew that the operation had been performed, and had not taken immediate steps to repudiate liability on his return, although he had an opportunity of so doing when he met the plaintiff on the railway station, and when receiving numerous ■ accounts With regard to the claim, the evidence showed the operation to be a difficult and possibly a dangerous one, reqnirinij the expert knowledge and .fikill of a specialist, and he considered the fee reasonable. Ho could not enter a nonsuit in the case. It ivas laid down that the moral duty of a father to maintain his infant children was recognised by the Courts, which had l refused to allow maintenance out of the property of infants when the father was in a position to maintain them, and had presumed, in.the absence of evidence to the contrary., that a person with whom tliev wero living, with his consent, was authorised to contract debts on his behalf to provide them with necessaries. If the case was governed by the law of agency then the principle of ratification also applied, and in such a case as the present, where the health of the child was in danger the evidci%e of ratification- was sufficient. Judgment would be given for the full amount claimed, with costs. 31 r Goodman a.sked for leave to appeal, which was granted.
AN UNUSUAL-CASE, Press, Volume LV, Issue 16632, 19 September 1919
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