Case Notes

Topics: Common law, Ratio decidendi, Law Pages: 16 (5040 words) Published: March 12, 2013

Essentially, a casenote is a summary of a case. Christopher Enright,[1] as outlined below, suggests the type of information that should be included in any case summary. You may wish to use these points as a guide to writing your own casenote:

• Formal particulars, including:
o The name and citation of the case (ie Mabo v Queensland (No.2) (1992) 175 CLR 1), o Name of the court and judge(s),
o Name and status of each party, and
o Date of the judgment;

• The facts of the case;

• The prior history of the case in lower courts (if mentioned in the judgment);

• The cause of action or claim involved in the case (for example, the issue on appeal);

• A summary of the judgments, including any dissenting judgments, which should include: o The facts that were considered material or relevant, o The ratio decidendi,
o The arguments considered by the court in support of, or against, the principle, and o Any obiter dicta or significant observations by the court;

• Commentary on the impact of the decision on the law.

The following pages contain an example of how a casenote can be presented, as well as a discussion on reading and summarising cases by Richard Krever.

Casenote example (please note that this is only a suggested format):

Penfold Wines Pty Ltd v Elliott (1946) 74 CLR 204

Date of Judgment: 25 November 1946


Penfolds Wines Pty Limited ("Penfolds") was a wine producer and seller. Elliott was a licensed hotelier carrying on business at an hotel in NSW. Through embossing on their bottles and notations on their invoices Penfolds informed all those in possession of its bottles that they were to be used only for the purposes of retailing and consumption of Penfold's wines and further, that they always remained the property of Penfolds.

Penfolds asserted that Elliott, without its consent, had been receiving, collecting and handling their embossed bottles, using them in connection with his business and delivering to his customers liquids not manufactured or marketed by Penfolds. Penfolds sought an injunction to have the practice stopped.


At the trial, Nicholas CJ found that
a) Elliott filled two of Penfolds' bottles with wine other than Penfolds' wine and delivered them to Moon for a sum of 8 shillings. The bottles were not sold to Moon. b) Elliott had for years and once subsequently filled Penfolds' bottles with non Penfolds' wine. Two of these filled bottles were delivered to Elliott's brother. c) Elliott did not sell Penfolds' bottles.

Penfolds asserted that:
1) Elliott's activities described in (a) above involved an assumption of dominion over the bottles which amounted to conversion, and 2) Elliott's activities described in (b) above amounted to a use of the bottles inconsistent with the terms of delivery of the bottles.

The trial judge found that Elliott's conduct amounted to a trespass to goods. His honour refused to order an injunction because there was inadequate evidence that Elliott intended to sell the bottles or to keep them if asked by Penfolds to return them.


Penfolds appealed to the High Court seeking an injunction.


The High Court comprised Latham CJ, Starke, Dixon, McTiernan and Williams JJ.

Latham CJ

Penfolds' branded bottles were bailed to persons who received them. By the terms of the bailment, the bailee was not entitled to use the bottles for another purpose than once only for retailing, consuming or using the plaintiff's wine contained in the bottles, and such a person has no right to authorise any other person to use them for any other purpose...
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