18th May 1908

Potato diggers start work but end up in court

Philippe Simon appeared in court when he refused to pay the labourers he’d employed to dig up his potatoes. They’d worked three days, they told the court when they sued him for their pay, but when he’d heard that some cheaper labourers were on their way from France, he’d told them to stop digging, pack up and go away.

Originally, the local labourers had been asked to work for seven full weeks, not just three days, and the contractor who had engaged them was still having to pay them, even though he himself had not received any money from Philippe Simon.

A case of hearsay?

The case hinged on who said what to whom, and whose memory of those conversations was most reliable. Fortunately for Simon, he was the most credible witness. He swore on oath that he had warned the labourers that the work was only temporary, until the workers he’d booked from France arrived.

The contractor claimed to have no recollection of that, but the fact he could remember other factors that helped his case ultimately counted against him, as it made his memory look unnecessarily selective. The court found in Simon’s favour, and he was free to employ his French labourers without paying the contractor any compensation. For the contractor, it was doubly bad news, as he was ordered to pay not only his workers, but costs, too.


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