Catharine MacMillan, ‘The mystery of privity: Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada v Robinson (1915)’

Abstract:
This article examines a little known decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada v Robinson (1915). The examination is historical and it provides a different insight into the understanding of privity of contract, a doctrine central to contract law. The examination reveals a process of trans-Atlantic legal migration in which English law was applied to resolve an Ontario case. The nature of the resolution is surprising because it appears to conflict with the better known decision of the House of Lords, Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company, Limited v Selfridge and Company, Limited, which a similarly constituted panel delivered in the same week. This article argues that there was a greater malleability in the resolution of cases concerned with privity than was thought to have existed. It is also argued that the power of Canadian railway capitalism is a significant factor in understanding the legal resolution of the case. Finally, the article considers the use of English and American precedents relevant to the case. The application of English precedents to the case led to a resolution not entirely befitting Canadian conditions.

Catharine MacMillan, The mystery of privity: Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada v Robinson (1915). University of Toronto Law Journal, Volume 65, Number 2 /2015, 1-36. DOI 10.3138/UTLJ.2775. Online Date Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

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