“The Limerick Mineral Water Case: False Trade Descriptions and the Merchandise Marks Act”.

The Mineral Water Case was heard in Nisi Prius Court No. I, with the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Gibson, Mr. Justice Madden, Mr. Justice Boyd, Mr. Justice Kenny, and Mr. Justice Barton sitting as the court for hearing Crown cases reserved. The case involved the King v. John McEvilly, Cornelius Conway, and John Cross, who were charged with selling mineral waters in bottles with a false trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887.

The defendants were tried together, and it was proved that Cantrell & Cochrane were mineral water manufacturers in Dublin, while McEvily was a mineral water manufacturer in Limerick. Cantrell & Cochrane had always sold their bottles and their contents, charging a single price for both but making an allowance to customers who returned the bottles. The bottles sent out by Cantrell & Cochrane had the name of the firm embossed upon the bottles. However, certain bottles found their way to McEvily , who filled them with his own mineral water, placed his label on them, and sold them to certain customers.

The other two cases involved Hovenden & Orr, the name embossed on the bottles. Counsel for the defendants asked the County Court Judge to direct an acquittal upon the grounds that Cantrell & Cochrane and Hovenden & Orr had parted with the property of their bottles. However, the judge refused the application, stating that if the jury found that the defendants knowingly put their own mineral water into the bottles embossed with those names and sold them to their customers, they would have to convict.

The defendants also requested that the questions “Did the defendants act innocently?” and “Did they act without intent to defraud?” be put to the jury, but the judge refused. The jury found the defendants guilty and fined them 6d each. The main points that the judge requested the opinion of the court were whether he ought to have directed an acquittal and whether he correctly directed the jury and left them to consider the case. Counsel for the defendants argued that the question of whether the defendants acted innocently should have been left to the jury. The Court was not satisfied that the case disclosed what evidence had been given in the trial, so they decided to send the case back to the County Court Judge with a request to provide specific details.

Belfast News-Letter – Saturday 16 February 1901

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