Trustees of the Harbour of Dundee v D and J Nicol: HL 10 Dec 1914

The pursuers challenged an initiative by the defenders which allegedly harmed their local steamer excursion business. The House was asked whether steamers acquired by a statutory body of harbour trustees who maintained a service of steamers for ferry traffic could be let out by them on hire for excursion trips beyond the ferry limits.
Held: Lord Dunedin emphasised that: ”Incidental,’ in my view, means incidental to the main purposes of the main business.’
He continued: ‘By the law of Scotland a litigant, and in particular a pursuer, must always qualify title and interest. Though the phrase ‘title to sue’ has been a heading under which cases have been collected from at least the time of Morison’s Dictionary and Brown’s Synopsis, I am not aware that anyone of authority has risked a definition of what constitutes title to sue. I am not disposed to do so, but I think it may fairly be said that for a person to have such title he must be a party (using the word in its widest sense) to some legal relation which gives him some right which the person against whom he raises the action either infringes or denies. . . If any persons are in such a relation as to constitute them trustees, or if, without being technically trustees, they have a fiduciary duty to others, those persons to whom they owe a fiduciary duty will have a title to sue to prevent the infringement of that duty.’ and ‘when I find that the respondents in the capacity of harbour ratepayers are members of the constituency erected by the Act of Parliament to elect the trustees, and as such are also persons for whose benefit the harbour is kept up, I cannot doubt that they have a title to prevent an ultra vires act of the appellants, which ultra vires act directly affects the property under their care. It is not only that loss of that property through improper acting may have the effect of imposing heavier rates on the respondents in the future, but in the words of Lord Johnston in the Stirling County Council case, as they have contributed to the funds which bought the property, ‘they have an interest in the administration of a . . fund to which they have contributed’, and a title flowing from that position and interest.’
Lord Dunedin
[1915] AC 550, [1914] UKHL 4, 1915 SC (HL) 7, (1914) 2 SLT 418
Bailii
Scotland
Cited by:
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These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 February 2021; Ref: scu.268227