The insurance inspector and his steak


January 6, 1893
At the Liverpool Court of Passage, yesterday, Mr. T.H. Baylis, Q.C., assess, and a special jury, resumed the hearing of the action brought by Francis Morley Allanson, inspector of insurance agencies, residing at Egremont, against the Liverpool Clerk’s Café Company, Limited, to recover damages for having been supplied with unwholesome curried steak, at the Economic Café, Strand-street, on June 27th. Mr. Shee, Q.C., and Mr. Steele appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Bigham, Q.C., and Mr. Mulholland for the defendants.

Mr. W.H. Walker (of the firm of Messrs. Cochran and Walker, accountants) gave evidence that the food supplied to the company’s cafes was good and wholesome. No distinction on that point was made between the Economic and the higher priced cafes. – Cross-examined: The company paid an average price of 7d per lb. for the beef, and with the exception of the little that came from the Woodside lairgaes it was all English beef. It was a fact that grilled steaks did not pay, and that stewed steaks paid better. It was impossible to say whether stewed steaks paid at the Economic Café, because they dealt with the cafes in the aggregate. He did not suppose any steaks left over were served up, but if they were the staff, consisting of 20 persons, used them up. Precise instructions were given that no meat was to be re-cooked. – In re-examination, the witness said the company’s total profits, on a capital of £5,000, was a little over £1,000 a year, or about £120 profit for each café.

Mr. Eadon, who manages the company’s stores at the Old Haymarket, stated that the best meat in the market was purchased. About 1,000,000 lbs of beef was supplied each year to the cafes. Cross-examined: He would not pledge his word that all the beef was prime English. The ladies at the café sometimes rejected the meat supplied from the stores, and he was often puzzled to know the reason why. They would say it was too fat, to lean, had too much bone, or that it was not nice (Laughter.) He supposed they had complained so often of too much fat or that it was too lean that they were obliged to say something else. (Laughter.)

Mr. Shee. – Ladies are given to that sort of thing, are they not?

Witness. – They do it, sir. I have eight of them to deal with.

Mr. Shee. – You are a fortunate young man. (Laughter.) I hope you have not had a swollen tongue. (Laughter.)

Witness. – No, that is not in my line. (Renewed laughter.)

Mr. Eastwood, the meat buyer for the company, said the beef purchased was invariably of goody quality. In cross-examination he admitted that he had trimmed bruised meat, but such food did not go to cafes, but to poor people.

Miss Currie, manageress at the Economic Café, stated that on June 27th 50 portions of steak were cut up and stewed in the same pan. It was stewed over two hours. Twenty portions were afterwards treated with curry. No complaints were made about it by the cook, and if anything had been wrong with it she would have made complaint. She instructed the girls to report any complaints made by customers. The curry was bought in ½lb. bottles.

Mr. Shee. – I don’t suggest the curry was bad or the potatoes or the rice, or even the young ladies. (Laughter.)
The witness added that the employers ate the stew. No cooked meats left over were served up again. She so managed the menu that there would be no steaks over, but if there were they would go into the swill-tub.

Mr. Luya, chief inspector of meat for the Liverpool Corporation, said it was his duty to visit the butchers’ stores at the Haymarket belonging to the defendants company. He had never had occasion to condemn any meat in the place. The meat he saw there was of a very good class – of first class quality. It was carefully chosen and carefully handled.

Mary Gee said that in June last she was the cashier at the Economic. If people had any complaints to make, they would tell her as they went out. During four years she heard of no complaint about curried steak.

Kate Ward, cook at the Strand-street café in June last said she cut up the meat for the stewed steak. There was nothing wrong with it.

Mr. Bigham said he had a number of witnesses who had been regular attendants at the Economic Café, and they would all speak as to the general good character of the food served.

Mr. Shee. – I do not dispute that. I have no doubt that if I went down to the café and had my lunch there I would come back all alive. (Laughter.) I don’t think I should be any the worse for any joint I should get there.

Mr. Bigham. – Am I understand that the complaint is confined to the beef?

Mr. Shee. – Yes, I don’t say anything against the curry or the rice, or the potatoes. Counsel added that on the previous day several of the defendants medical witnesses said that if there were any alkaloids in the meat the cooking would destroy them. He therefor desired to call Dr. Paul and Dr. Vacher with reference to that statement.

Mr. Bigham. – I will assume that they will say anything you please. (Laughter.)

Dr. Paul said that assuming there were alkaloids in meat in consequence of decomposition, such alkaloid poison would not be destroyed by coking; it would require a very high temperature. These alkaloids had hardly any power of diffusion.

Mr. Shee was proceeding to call Dr. Vacher, when Mr. Bigham said his doctor were away, and he could not test the evidence.

The Foreman of the Jury said it was no use calling doctors on one side when the others were away. It would not be fair. They were sure to contradict each other. (Laughter.)

His Honour. – It is the old, old story – “doctors differ the patient dies.” (Loud laughter.)

This closed the defendants’ case, and after the summing up by counsel and the judge the jury returned a verdict for the defendants.

Later Mr. Mulholland asked his honour to certify for the costs of the trial, and also of the former trial.

Mr. Steele said that as regarded the costs of the former trials, he thought it would be in his honour’s recollection what the jury thought at the time.

His Honour. – I do not know in the least.

Mr. Mulholland. – Nobody does.

His Honour. – The costs must abide the event. I am sorry it is so, but that is the rule.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: January 7, 1893)

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