Abrath v North Eastern Railway Co: HL 15 Mar 1886

The plaintiff had brought an action against the company of malicious prosecution. It was rejected by the jury and again on appeal.
Held: The appeal failed. In an action for damages for the tort of malicious prosecution one of the elements of the tort is that there was no reasonable or probable cause for instituting the prosecution – the plaintiff in such an action bears the onus of proving absence of reasonable or probable cause.
Lord Bramwell said that it was impossible for a corporation to have either malice or motive: ‘A fictitious person is incapable of malice or of motive’ even if the whole body of its directors or shareholders in general meeting approved its acts for improper reasons. Malice was an unfortunate word in this context.
Lord Fitzgerald had no doubt that Lord Bramwell’s weighty observations would be instructive in the future and would ‘always carry with them that force before any tribunal which they so eminently deserve.’
Lord Bramwell, Lord Fitzgerald, Earl of Selborne
(1886) 11 App Cas 247, [1886] UKLawRpAC 15
England and Wales
Appeal fromAbrath v North Eastern Railway Company CA 22-Jun-1883
A claim was brought against the company for malicious prosecution. The jury acquitted it. And the plaintiff appealed.
Held: The judge’s direction had been correct.
Bowen LJ said: ‘Wherever a person asserts affirmatively as part of his . .

Cited by:
RejectedThe Citizens Life Assurance Company Limited v Brown PC 6-May-1904
(New South Wales) A malicious libel was alleged. The life assurance company was vicariously liable in respect of a libel contained in a circular sent out by a person who was employed by the company under a written agreement as its ‘superintendent of . .
CitedJetivia Sa and Another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and Others SC 22-Apr-2015
The liquidators of Bilta had brought proceedings against former directors and the appellant alleging that they were party to an unlawful means conspiracy which had damaged the company by engaging in a carousel fraud with carbon credits. On the . .
CitedJetivia Sa and Another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and Others CA 31-Jul-2013
Defendants appealed against refusal of their request for a summary striking out for lack of jurisdiction, of the claims against them arising from their management of the insolvency of the first defendant. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 23 August 2021; Ref: scu.565826