VICE-CHANCELLOR'S COURT.–July 22.
Reddel V. Dobree.
Mr. Jacob and Mr. Swinburne appeared in support of a demurrer in this case. The bill disclosed the following singular facts:–Mr. John Dobree, who was a retired silversmith, and a widower, living alone at Brixton, formed a strong attachment for the plaintiffs, Charlotte Reddel and Allison Kyle Reddel. In the autumn of 1837 he had a cash-box made with a Bramah lock, and to the key attached a bone label, on which Miss Reddel's name was inscribed. On the 10th of September he gave her the box, and, as the bill alleged, accompanied the gift with these words :–" At my death go to my son and ask him for the key, which will be found in the iron chest. If he will not give it up, take the box to Vaughan. It contains money, take care of it. It will make hundreds difference to you. It is for yourself and your sister, and entirely at your own disposal after I am gone; but I shall want it from you every three months while I live." It appeared from the bill that Vaughan, who was one of the defendants, and had formerly been Mr. Dobree's partner, and was also considerably indebted to him, was the person employed by Mr. Dobree to obtain the cash-box. When the box was delivered to the plaintiff she was ignorant of its contents, and upon Vaughan shortly after asking her "whether she did not wish to know what the old gentleman had left her," she objected to receive any information about the matter. In the month of December following, Mr. Dobree called upon Miss Reddel on his road to town, and took away the box, which, however, he redelivered to her on the same day as he returned. In March, 1838, he paid the plaintiff another visit; she was absent from home, and left word that she should bring the box to his house. In compliance with this message, she took the box to his house, and received it again in a few days. Mr. Dobree died on the 1st of June, 1838, leaving a son and daughter, and by his will left the iron chest to his son, whom he also appointed his residuary legatee. After Mr. Dobree s death, the plaintiff made an application to the defendant, his son, for the key, but on his refusal to give it up she had the box broken open, and found therein two envelopes, one of which was directed to herself, and contained a draught on Ransom, and dated April 2, drawn by Vaughan for Â£500. payable to John Dobree or bearer, and another draught of the same date for Â£200. for her sister. When the draughts were presented to Messrs. Ransom and Co. the payment was refused, and then Miss Reddel filed the present bill against Vaughan, the drawer of the checks, and also against Dobree as the residuary legatee of the testator. Among the allegations in the bill it was stated that several small boxes of the same kind as that given to the plaintiff were made at different times by the direction of Mr. Dobree, and presented to various persons. The bill also alleged, that the two draughts found in the envelopes after the testator's death, were placed there in the room of two similar draughts which the box contained when it was first delivered to Miss Reddel. It was further alleged, that the defendants set up a pretence that the draughts were made on the 1st of April, which being a Sunday, the instruments were illegal, and could not be sued upon. In answer to this the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had been informed by Mr. Dobree, during his lifetime, of his intention to make a provision for herself and sister and that even if the case were as they pretended, the whole was a fraudulent scheme to defeat his intention and deprive them of the enjoyment of his bounty. The learned counsel contended, in support of the demurrer, that a case of donatio mortis causa' could not be supported by the bill.
Mr. K. Bruce and Mr. Anderdon appeared in support of the bill.
The Vice-chancellor said, the case appeared to him to be quite a mistake. There certainly was not in his opinion a donatio mortis causa', or anything like it, but merely a gift of what might happen to be in the box at the time of the testator's death, and which of course was always liable to he recalled. His Honour could not but think the testator meant all along to retain complete dominion over the box, and that it was only an accident that he died so shortly after the last delivery of it to the plaintiff. That, however, could not vary the nature and constitution of the case. His Honour was of opinion that at the utmost the plaintiff held the box upon trust for the testator himself, and if not in favour of himself, then for the holder. Such a trust, however, the Court could not entertain a jurisdiction over, and therefore the demurrer must be allowed.
Source: The Legal Guide - Volume 2 - L. Houghton - 1839