Keppel Bus Co Ltd v Sa'ad bin Ahmad

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
CourtPrivy Council
JudgeLord Cross of Chelsea
Judgment Date15 May 1974
Neutral Citation[1974] SGPC 2
Citation[1974] SGPC 2
Docket NumberAppeal No 1 of 1973
Date15 May 1974
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselGO Kellock QC and Ian Baillieu (Le Brasseur & Oakley)
Plaintiff CounselJG Le Quesne QC and Kenneth Hilborne (Coward Chance)

The respondent (plaintiff) was a passenger in a bus belonging to the appellants (first defendants). They employed as conductor of the bus the second defendant, who was a party neither to the proceedings before the Court of Appeal in Singapore nor to the present appeal. In the course of his journey the respondent was assaulted by the conductor. He brought an action claiming damages against both the conductor and also the appellants, as vicariously liable for the wrong committed by their servant. T Kulasekaram J, before whom the case was tried, decided for the respondent against both defendants, and assessed the damages at $20,290. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of the first defendants, and gave leave to appeal to the Board.

The facts, as they were found by the learned judge, may be stated as follows.
At one point on the journey, an elderly Malay lady indicated that she wanted to get off the bus. The conductor ordered her `in a loud and rude manner` to go and wait near the exit. The respondent took exception to this instruction and the manner in which it was given; he remonstrated that it was not safe for the lady to stand by the exit, which was also the entrance. An altercation broke out between him and the conductor, in the course of which each tried to hit the other. The passenger intervened and separated them. The bus stopped, the lady got off, and some passengers got on. The conductor began collecting fares. As he did so he abused the respondent in Chinese, using a very rude expression, of which an English translation has not been furnished. The respondent stood up and asked the conductor not to use abusive language; he then sat down. After he had sat down the conductor struck him in the eye with the ticket-punch, breaking his glasses, and causing the loss of the sight of the eye. The learned judge specifically rejected the conductor`s version that the ticket-punch accidentally struck the glasses. The learned judge`s account of these facts was accepted by the Court of Appeal; there are therefore concurrent findings of these facts, which, in accordance with their usual practice, their Lordship would not review.

The question in the case is whether the conductor did what he did `in the course of his employment`.
The course of the employment is not limited to the obligations which lie on an employee in virtue of his contract of service. It extends to act done on the implied authority of the master. In Poland v John Parr & Sons [1927] 1 KB 236 a carter, who had handed over his wagon and was going home to hid dinner, struck a boy whom he suspected, wrongly but on reasonable grounds, of stealing his master`s property. The master was held liable for the consequences, since a servant has implied authority, at least in an emergency, to protect his master`s property.

`Maybe his action was mistaken and maybe the force he used was excessive; he might have pushed the boy instead of striking him. But that was merely acting in excess of what was necessary in doing an act which he was authorized to do. The excess was not sufficient to take the act out of the class of authorized acts` - per Scrutton LJ at p 244.



There is no dispute about the law.
The court of Appeal relied on the well-known passage from Salmond on Torts which was approved in CPR v Lockhart [1942] AC 591 at p 599; it is not necessary to repeat it.

The Court of Appeal rightly point out that the question in every case is whether on the facts the act done, albeit unauthorized and unlawful, is done in the course of the employment; that question is itself a question of fact.
In Baker v Snell [1908] 2 KB 352 (approved [1908] 1 KB 825), Channell J, after saying that the defendant`s liability would depend on whether his servant`s wrongful act was done in the...

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17 cases
  • Robison (Dave) and anor v Inez Brown
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal
    • 3 April 2003
    ...this background that the relevant authorities ought to be examined. Here is how Lord Kilbrandon appreciated the issue in Keppel Bus Co. Ltd. v Sa'ad bin Ahmad [1974] 2 All E.R. 700 at 702. He said: "The question in the case is whether the conductor did what he did "In the course of his emp......
  • General Engineering Services Ltd v Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal
    • 2 October 1986
    ......In Keppel Bus Co. Ltd. v. Sa'ad bin Ahmad [1974] 2 All E.R. 700 , where a conductor on a bus assaulted a ...Ltd. v. Saad bin Ahmad [1974] 2 All E.R. 700 P.C. The respondent before the Privy Council, while a passenger ......
  • Mohamud v W M Morrison Supermarkets Plc
    • United Kingdom
    • Supreme Court
    • 2 March 2016
    ...that the customer was leaving without payment, I would regard such conduct as occurring within the course of his employment. 33 In Keppel Bus Co Ltd v Ahmad [1974] 1 WLR 1082 the plaintiff was travelling in a bus when the conductor treated an elderly lady passenger in a high-handed and rud......
  • Mohamud v W M Morrison Supermarkets Plc
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 13 February 2014
    ...factor such as keeping order. In Fennelly the court at paragraph 20 made reference to the decision of the Privy Council in Keppel Bus Company v Sa'ad bin Ahmad [1974] 1 WLR 1082. That case involved an alleged assault by a bus conductor upon a passenger. It was held that the employer was no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Casenote: Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC
    • Ireland
    • Trinity College Law Review Nbr. XX-2017, January 2017
    • 1 January 2017
    ...(t/a Flamingos Nightclub) [2014] EWCA Civ 116, [2003] 1 WLR 2158. 14 Gravil v Caroll & Anor [2008] EWCA Civ 689, [2008] IRLR 829. 15 [1974] 1 WLR 1082. 16 Mohamud (n 8) 997. 17 ibid 998. 18 ibid 999. 19 ibid 1000. 2017] Case Note: Mohamud 207 capacity test: ‘whether a reasonable observer wo......

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