March 1896: PSA predecessor in court over funds dispute

The big news in Australian pharmacy 125 years ago was a court case relating to the construction of a new building for the College of Pharmacy, Melbourne  

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia was sued in the County Court by an architect in late February 1896 as part of an ongoing dispute over the construction of a new building for the College of Pharmacy,  Melbourne.

Mr HJ Prockter was claiming £86, the balance of account claimed by him as commission for architectural work in connection with the plans and erection of the new building for the College of Pharmacy.

A counter claim for £65 17s. 6d. was made by the Society.

The case, which was tried by Judge Casey, extended over a day and a half. The judge, in giving his decision, said that he considered the architect had improperly used the contingency clause of £30 and the deduction clause of £35 17s. 6d. by ordering works to those amounts.

Judge Casey thought “some of the disputed extras had been incurred by the authority of Mr. Shillinglaw [PSA secretary] and some without”, AJP reported. 

He had difficulty in deciding how far to visit the plaintiff with the damages for wrongfully exercising his power in the particulars already mentioned, and in ordering works to be executed without the authority and against the will of the defendant society, when at the same time he had to recognise that those works were executed for the benefit of the defendants, and were actually being enjoyed by them.

“It would not be fair to visit on the architect the whole cost of he works,” Judge Casey decided, and he had deducted a “fair amount of damage”, which left the sum of £26 15s. due to the plaintiff.

But a greater trouble still was in the matter of costs. It was his rule to give a successful litigant his costs, but in this case he was of opinion that the plaintiff had wilfully and persistently refused to give the Society information as to the nature and details of the items of the account.

Judge Casey did not concur with his excuses, and believed that if details had been given litigation would not have taken place. He therefore, deprived Mr Prockter of costs.

The Society was certainly making use of the building with an announcement in the same issue of AJP that the “39th annual meeting of the members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia will be held at the College of Pharmacy, Swanston-street, Melbourne” on 27 March.

A record number of 43 students were enrolled at the college in 1896. 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia was the name of the Victorian society in those days.  


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