Alexander v Rayson: CA 1936

The action was for arrears of rent. The evidence at trial was that the plaintiff granted a lease to the defendant at a rent of andpound;1200 and contracted that certain services in connection with the flat would be performed. The plaintiff sent the defendant two documents. One was a lease with the benefit of certain services at a rent of andpound;450 pa. The other was an agreement for services in connection with the flat for a consideration of andpound;750. The plaintiff used these two documents because he planned to defraud the local Assessment Committee by representing that the total rent was andpound;450. The flat had been assessed at andpound;720 gross, andpound;597 net but when the plaintiff submitted just the lease to the Assessment Committee the gross valuation was reduced to andpound;270. However, the valuation authority learned about the other agreement from the tenant and restored the original figures of andpound;720 gross and andpound;597 net. Sometime later, the plaintiff sued for arrears of rent and was met by the defence of illegality.
Held: The Court referred to a number of cases where the contract in question had been held to be unenforceable because it was intended that the subject matter of the contract was to be used for an unlawful purpose. It is not right that the judge of fact should be asked to express any opinion upon the evidence until the evidence is completed: ‘Where an action is being heard by a jury it is, of course, quite usual and often very convenient at the end of the case for the plaintiff, or of the party having the onus of proof, as the defendant had here, for the opposing party to ask for the ruling of the judge whether there is any case to go to the jury, who are the only judges of fact. It also seems to be not unusual in the King’s Bench Division to ask for a similar ruling in actions tried by a judge alone. We think, however, that this is highly inconvenient. For the judge in such cases is also the judge of fact, and we cannot think it right that the judge of fact should be asked to express any opinion upon the evidence until the evidence is completed. Certainly no one would ever dream of asking a jury at the end of a plaintiff’s case to say what verdict they would be prepared to give if the defendant called no evidence, and we fail to see why a judge should be asked such a question in cases where he and not a jury is the judge that has to determine the facts. In such cases we venture to think that the responsibility for not calling rebutting evidence should be upon the other party’s counsel and upon no one else.’


(1936) 1 KB 169

Cited by:

CitedMiller (T/A Waterloo Plant) v Cawley CA 30-Jul-2002
At the end of the claimant’s case the defendant wished to submit that there was no case for her to answer. The judge then put the defendant to an election as to whether or not she would call any evidence. She appealed.
Held: It is not . .
CitedBoyce v Wyatt Engineering and Others CA 1-May-2001
The discretion of a judge to deal with a case at the close of the claimant’s case, and without putting the defendants to their respective election was only to be exercised with the greatest caution. There was a risk that, if the claimant appealed . .
CitedLloyd v John Lewis Partnership CA 1-Jul-2001
The judge allowed the defendant’s submission of no case to answer without putting them to their election and again the claimant’s appeal succeeded. The trial judge had been persuaded that the rule in Alexander -v- Rayson had been altered by the . .
AffirmedBenham Limited v Kythira Investments Ltd and Another CA 15-Dec-2003
The appellant complained that the judge had accepted a case of no case to answer before the close of the claimant’s case and without putting them to their election. The claimant estate agents sought payment of their account. The defendants alleged a . .
Cited21st Century Logistic Solutions Limited (In Liquidation) v Madysen Limited QBD 17-Feb-2004
The vendor sold computers to the defendant, intending not to account to the commissioners for the VAT. The seller went into liquidation, and the liquidator sought payment. The purchaser had been unaware of the intended fraud and resisted payment. . .
CitedNeina Graham v Chorley Borough Council CA 21-Feb-2006
The defendant had submitted after the close of the claimant’s case that it had no case to answer. The judge did not put the defendant to its election as to whether to call evidence, but instead decided to accede to the submission. The claimant now . .
CitedMassey v Crown Life Insurance Company CA 4-Nov-1977
Massey worked as Crown Life’s manager under 2 contracts, one a contract of employment, the other a contract of general agency. Tax and other contributions were deducted from wages paid under the former, while commission was paid under the agency . .
CitedMoore Stephens (A Firm) v Stone Rolls Ltd (in liquidation) HL 30-Jul-2009
The appellants had audited the books of the respondent company, but had failed to identify substantial frauds by an employee of the respondent. The auditors appealed a finding of professional negligence, relying on the maxim ex turpi causa non . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Contract

Updated: 27 April 2022; Ref: scu.180537