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United Kingdom House of Lords Decisions
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Cite as:  UKHL 2,  AC 495
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HOUSE OF LORDS
HOUSE OF LORDS
|- v -
The House took time for consideration.
My Lords, in this case the
plaintiff has by a properly framed statement of claim complained
of the defendants, and proved to the satisfaction of a jury
that the defendants have wrongfully and maliciously induced
customers and servants to cease to deal with the plaintiff, that
the defendants did this in pursuance of a conspiracy framed
among them, that in pursuance of the same conspiracy they
induced servants of the plaintiff not to continue in the
plaintiff's employment, and that all this was done with malice in
order to injure the plaintiff, and that it did injure the plaintiff.
If upon these facts so found the plaintiff could have no remedy
against those who had thus injured him, it could hardly be said
that our jurisprudence was that of a civilized community, nor
indeed do I understand that any one has doubted that, before
the decision in Allen v. Flood(1) in this House, such fact
would have established a cause of action against the defendants.
Now, before discussing the case of Allen v. Flood(1) and what
was decided therein, there are two observations of a general
character which I wish to make, and one is to repeat what I
have very often said before, that every judgment must be read
as applicable to the particular facts proved, or assumed to be
proved, since the generality of the expressions which may be
found there are not intended to be expositions of the whole
law, but governed and qualified by the particular facts of the
case in which such expressions are to be found. The other is
that a case is only an authority for what it actually decides. I
entirely deny that it can be quoted for a proposition that may
seem to follow logically from it. Such a mode of reasoning
assumes that the law is necessarily a logical code, whereas
every lawyer must acknowledge that the law is not always
logical at all. My Lords, I think the application of these two
propositions renders the decision of this case perfectly plain,
notwithstanding the decision of the case of Allen v. Flood.(1)
Now, the hypothesis of fact upon which Allen v. Flood(1)was decided by a majority in this House was that the defendant there neither uttered nor carried into effect any threat at all: he simply warned the plaintiff's employers of what the men themselves, without his persuasion or influence, had determined to do, and it was certainly proved that no resolution of the trade union had been arrived at at all, and that the trade union official had no authority himself to call out the men,
which in that case was argued to be the threat which coerced the employers to discharge the plaintiff. It was further an element in the decision that there was no case of conspiracy or even combination. What was alleged to be done was only the independent and single action of the defendant, actuated in what he did by the desire to express his own views in favour of his fellow members. It is true that I personally did not believe that was the true view of the facts, but, as I have said, we must look at the hypothesis of fact upon which the case was decided by the majority of those who took part in the decision. My Lords, in my view what has been said already is enough to decide this case without going further into the facts of Allen v. Flood(1); but I cannot forbear accepting with cordiality the statement of them prepared by two of your Lordships, Lord Brampton and Lord Lindley, with so much care and precision.
Now, in this case it cannot be denied that if the verdict stands there was conspiracy, threats, and threats carried into execution, so that loss of business and interference with the plaintiff's legal rights are abundantly proved, and I do not understand the very learned judge who dissented to have doubted any one of these propositions, but his view was grounded on the belief that Allen v. Flood(1) had altered the law in these respects, and made that lawful which would have clearly been actionable before the decision of that case. My Lords, for the reasons I have given I cannot agree with that conclusion. I do not deny that if some of the observations made in that case were to be pushed to their logical conclusion it would be very difficult to resist the Chief Baron's inflexible logic; but, with all the respect which any view of that learned judge is entitled to command and which I unfeignedly entertain, I cannot concur. This case is distinguished in its facts from those which were the essentially important facts in Allen v. Flood.(1) Rightly or wrongly, the theory upon which judgment was pronounced in that case is one whereby the present is shewn to be one which the majority of your Lordships would have held to be a case of actionable injury inflicted without any excuse whatever.
My Lords, there was a subordinate question raised which I must not pass over. It is suggested that FitzGibbon L.J. did not put all the questions which were necessary to raise all the points which the learned counsel desired to argue. Now, I think the charge of the Lord Justice was absolutely accurate, and when, in deference to the wishes of the learned counsel for the defendant himself, he consented to put such questions as were then desired, it would be intolerable that it should afterwards be made the subject of complaint that he did not at the same time put other questions which he was not asked to put at all.
My Lords, for these reasons I am of opinion that there is no difficulty whatever in this case, and I move that this appeal be dismissed with costs.
." That, in my opinion, is the sum and substance of Allen v. Flood(1) if you eliminate all matters of merely passing interest - the charge of the learned judge, the findings of the jury (unintelligible, I think, without a careful examination of the evidence), and the discussion of the evidence itself in the two different aspects in which it was presented - once for the consideration of this House, and again for the consideration of the learned judges by whom the House was assisted.
The case really brought under review on this appeal is Temperton v. Russell.(2) I cannot distinguish that case from the present. The facts are in substance identical: the grounds of decision must be the same. Now, the decision in Temperton v. Russell(2) was not overruled in Allen v. Flood(1), nor is the authority of Temperton v. Russell(2), in my opinion, shaken in the least by the decision in Allen v. Flood.(1) Disembarrassed of the expressions which Lord Esher unfortunately used, the judgment in Temperton v. Russell(2) seems to me to stand on surer ground. So far from being impugned in Allen v. Flood(1) it had, I think, the approval of Lord Watson, whose opinion seems to me to represent the views of the majority better far than any other single judgment delivered in the case. Lord Watson says(3)that he did not think it necessary to notice at length Temperton v. Russell(2), because it was to his mind "very doubtful whether in that case there was any question before the Court with regard to the effect of the animus of the actor in making that unlawful which would otherwise have been lawful." Then he goes on to say: "The only findings of the jury which the Court had to consider were - (1.) that the defendants had maliciously induced certain persons to break their contracts with the plaintiffs, and (2.) that the defendants had maliciously conspired to induce and had thereby induced certain persons not to make contracts with the plaintiffs. There having been undisputed breaches of contract by the persons found to have
been induced, the first of these findings raised the same question which had been disposed of in Lumley v. Gye.(1) According to the second finding the persons induced merely refused to make contracts, which was not a legal wrong on their part, but the defendants who induced were found to have accomplished their object to the injury of the plaintiffs by means of unlawful conspiracy - a clear ground of liability according to Lumley v. Gye(1) if, as the Court held, there was evidence to prove it." It must be admitted, I think, that the second reference to Lumley v. Gye(1) in the passage I have just quoted is a slip - a rare occurrence in a judgment of Lord Watson's. But I do not think that the slip (if it be a slip) impairs the effect of what Lord Watson said. Obviously Lord Watson was convinced in his own mind that a conspiracy to injure might give rise to civil liability even though the end were brought about by conduct and acts which by themselves and apart from the element of combination or concerted action could not be regarded as a legal wrong.
Precisely the same questions arise in this case as arose in Temperton v. Russell.(2) The answers, I think, must depend on precisely the same considerations. Was Lumley v. Gye(1)rightly decided? I think it was. Lumley v. Gye(1) was much considered in Allen v. Flood.(3) But as it was not directly in question, some of your Lordships thought it better to suspend their judgment. In this case the question arises directly, and it is necessary to express an opinion on the point. Speaking for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that I think the decision was right, not on the ground of malicious intention - that was not, I think, the gist of the action - but on the ground that a violation of legal right committed knowingly is a cause of action, and that it is a violation of legal right to interfere with contractual relations recognised by law if there be no sufficient justification for the interference.
The only other question is this: Does a conspiracy to injure, resulting in damage, give rise to civil liability? It seems to me that there is authority for that proposition, and that it
is founded in good sense. Gregory v. Duke of Brunswick(1)is one authority, and there are others. There are valuable observations on the subject in Erle J.'s charge to the jury in Duffield's Case(2) and Rowland's Case.(3) Those were cases of trade union outrages; but the observations to which I refer are not confined to cases depending on exploded doctrines in regard to restraint of trade. There are also weighty observations to be found in the charge delivered by Lord FitzGerald, then FitzGerald J., in Reg. v. Parnell and Others.(4) That a conspiracy to injure - an oppressive combination - differs widely from an invasion of civil rights by a single individual cannot be doubted. I agree in substance with the remarks of Bowen L.J. and Lords Bramwell and Hannen in the Mogul Case.(5) A man may resist without much difficulty the wrongful act of an individual. He would probably have at least the moral support of his friends and neighbours; but it is a very different thing (as Lord FitzGerald observes) when one man has, to defend himself against many combined to do him wrong.
I have only to add that I agree generally with the judgments delivered in the Courts below, and particularly with the judgment of Andrews J. in the Queen's Bench, and the judgment of Holmes L.J. in the Court of Appeal. I do not think that the acts done by the defendants were done "in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute between employers and workmen." So far as I can see, there was no trade dispute at all. Leathem had no difference with his men. They had no quarrel with him. For his part he was quite willing that all his men should join the union. He offered to pay their fines and entrance moneys. What he objected to was a cruel punishment proposed to be inflicted on some of his men for not having joined the union sooner. There was certainly no trade dispute in the case of Munce. But the defendants conspired to do harm to Munce in order to compel him to do harm to Leathem, and so enable them to wreak their
vengeance on Leathem's servants who were not members of the union.
I also think that the provision in the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, which says that in certain cases an agreement or combination is not to be "indictable as a conspiracy," has nothing to do with civil remedies.
In that case I expressed my opinion that while combination of different persons in pursuit of a trade object was lawful, although resulting in such injury to others as may be caused by legitimate competition in labour, yet that combination for no such object, but in pursuit merely of a malicious purpose to injure another, would be clearly unlawful; and, having considered the arguments in this case, my opinion has only been confirmed.
The learned judge before whom the case was tried, with reference to the words "wrongfully and maliciously" in the first question, told the jury that the questions to be answered by them were matters of fact only to be determined on the evidence, and in particular involved the question whether the intention of the defendants was to injure the plaintiff in his trade, as distinguished from the intention of legitimately advancing their own interests. The verdict affirms that this was the fact, for after the direction of the learned judge no other interpretation can be given to the finding that the acts
complained of were done by the defendants "wrongfully and maliciously."
This being clearly so, the question now raised is really whether, in consequence of the decision of this House in the case of Allen v. Flood(1), and of the grounds on which that case was decided, it is now the law that where the acts complained of are in pursuance of a combination or conspiracy to injure or ruin another, and not to advance the parties' own trade interests, and injury has resulted, no action will lie, or, to put the question in a popular form, whether the decision in Allen v. Flood(1) has made boycotting lawful.
Apart from the decision in that case, the judgment of the learned judges in Ireland would have been unanimous in affirming the principle to which FitzGibbon L.J. gave effect. The general law cannot, I think, be more happily stated than in the passage from the judgment of Lord Bowen in the Mogul Case(2), which was quoted by the Lord Chancellor with an expression of his strong approval in the case of Allen v. Flood.(3)[His Lordship read the passage.] The Lord Chancellor also spoke with approval, as I should certainly do, of the views to a similar effect stated by Sir William Erle in his work on Trade Unions.
It may be true that in certain cases the object of inflicting injury, and success in that object, requires combination or conspiracy with others in order to be effectual. That was not so in all of the cases enumerated by Lord Bowen; but no question on that point arises in the circumstances of this particular case, for according to the evidence and the verdict of the jury the defendants by combined action wrongfully and maliciously induced a number of persons to refrain from dealing with the plaintiff. That is sufficient for the decision of the case, although, in my opinion, it is further proved that they succeeded in inducing a servant and a customer of the plaintiff to break existing contracts with him. On the whole, it seems to me clear that the defendants were guilty of unlawful acts, unless the judgment in the case of Allen v. Flood(1)
has introduced a change which has rendered such acts lawful.
As to the vital distinction between Allen v. Flood(1) and the present case, it may be stated in a single sentence. In Allen v. Flood(1) the purpose of the defendant was by the acts complained of to promote his own trade interest, which it was held he was entitled to do, although injurious to his competitors, whereas in the present case, while it is clear there was combination, the purpose of the defendants was "to injure the plaintiff in his trade as distinguished from the intention of legitimately advancing their own interests." It is unnecessary to quote from the judgments of the majority of the learned judges in Allen v. Flood(1) to shew their opinions on the importance of this essential point. Lord Herschell, for example, said(2): "The object which the defendant and those whom he represented had in view throughout was what they believed to be the interest of the class to which they belonged; the step taken was a means to that end." And the other noble and learned Lords in the majority expressed themselves to a similar effect. For myself, what I said was this(3): "If anything is clear on the evidence, it seems to me to be this, that the defendant was bent, and bent exclusively, on the object of furthering the interests of those he represented in all he did; that this was his motive of action, and not a desire, to use the words of the learned judge, 'to do mischief to the plaintiffs in their lawful calling.' The case was one of competition in labour, which, in my opinion, is in all essentials analogous to competition in trade, and to which the same principles must apply."
The ground of judgment of the majority of the House, however varied in expression by their Lordships, was, as it appears to me, that Allen in what he said and did was only exercising the right of himself and his fellow workmen as competitors in the labour market, and the effect of injury thus caused to others from such competition, which was legitimate, was not a legal wrong.
It is only necessary to add that the defendants here have no such defence as legitimate trade competition. Their acts were wrongful and malicious in the sense found by the jury - that is to say, they acted by conspiracy, not for any purpose of advancing their own interests as workmen, but for the sole purpose of injuring the plaintiff in his trade. I am of opinion that the law prohibits such acts as unjustifiable and illegal; that by so acting the defendants were guilty of a clear violation of the rights of the plaintiff, with the result of causing serious injury to him, and that the case of Allen v. Flood(1), as a case of legitimate competition in the labour market, is essentially different, and gives no ground for the defendant's argument.
I concur with your Lordships in holding that there is not sufficient ground for disturbing the verdict on the question of damages, and in holding that the special provision of the 3rd section of the Conspiracy Act of 1875 has no application to the circumstances of this case.
It is an action originally brought in the High Court in Ireland by Henry Leathem, the respondent, as plaintiff, against Joseph Quinn (the sole appellant) and four other persons, named respectively John Craig (now dead), John Davey, Henry Dornan, and Robert Shaw, as defendants, to recover damages for a wrongful interference with the plaintiff's business of a butcher at Lisburn, a few miles from Belfast. For upwards of twenty years before July, 1895, Leathem had carried on business in Lisburn, having as one of his constant customers Andrew Munce (now also dead), who kept a butcher's shop at Belfast, to whom he supplied weekly twenty or thirty pounds' worth of the best meat; and he had in his employ as assistants several men at weekly wages.
In February, 1893, a trade union society was registered under the Trade Union Acts, 1871 and 1876, by the name of "The Belfast Journeymen Butchers and Assistants' Association." Of this society Craig was president, Quinn treasurer, and Davey secretary; they were original members; the other defendants, Dornan and Shaw, joined subsequently as mere ordinary members. Leathem was not a member, nor were any of his assistants. The members of the society amongst themselves soon adopted an unregistered rule that they would not work with non-union men, nor would they cut up meat that came from a place where non-union hands were employed; but there was no evidence that, prior to July, 1895, this had been productive of any conflict between Leathem's men and the union.
Early in that month, however, Leathem, on the invitation of Davey, attended a meeting of the society held at Lisburn. All the defendants were there. The occurrences at this meeting shewed the existence of an angry feeling, and an overbearing determination on the part of the defendants to compel Leathem to employ none but union men, which culminated in the lawless conduct the subject of this action.
Leathem had at that time among his assistants a man named Robert Dickie, a family man, with young children dependent upon him; this man had been in his employ for ten years. He was desirous of keeping him and all the others employed by him in his service, but still of doing anything in reason to conciliate the society. But I had better let him tell his account of this meeting in his own words, as he told it to the jury. "I said that I came on behalf of my men, and was ready to pay all fines, debts, and demands against them; and I asked to have them admitted to the society. The defendant Shaw got up and objected to their being allowed to work on, and to their admission, and said that my men should be put out of my employment, and could not be admitted, and should walk the streets for twelve months. I said it was a hard case to make a man walk the streets with nine small children, and I would not submit to it. Shaw moved a resolution that my assistants should be called out; a man named Morgan seconded the resolution, and it was carried. Craig was in the chair; I was sitting beside him. He said there were some others there that would suit me as well. He picked some out and said they could work for me. I said they were not suitable for my business, and I would keep the men I had. They said I had to take them. I said I would not put out my men. Craig then spoke, and told me my meat would be stopped in Andrew Munce's if I would not comply with their wishes."
The chairman spoke truly; for on September 6 the secretary of the society wrote to Leathem, asking "whether he had made up his mind to continue to employ non-union labour," adding, "If you continue as at present, our society will be obliged to adopt extreme measures in your case." He wrote also to Mr. Munce on September 13, stating that a deputation had been appointed to wait upon him to come to a decision in regard to his purchase of meat from Leathem & Sons, as they were anxious to have a settlement at once. To this letter Mr. Munce sent, on September 14, a very sensible reply: "It is quite out of my province to interfere with the liberty of any man. But why refer to me in the matter? I do not think it fair for you to come at me, seeing it appears to be the Messrs. Leathem that you wish to interfere with." A deputation, which included Craig, Quinn, Shaw, and Dornan, had an interview with a son of Mr. A. Munce, and on September 17 he wrote to the secretary the reply of his father, "that he could not interfere to bring pressure to bear on Mr. Leathem to employ none but society men by refusing to purchase meat from him, as that would be outside his province and interfering with the liberty of another man." The 18th of September brought a definite announcement from the secretary to Mr. Munce that, having failed to make a satisfactory arrangement with Mr. Leathem, they had no other alternative but to instruct his (Munce's) employees "to cease work immediately Leathem's beef arrives." Thereupon Mr. Munce was constrained to send to Leathem on September 20 a telegram: "Unless you arrange with society you need not send any beef this week, as men are ordered to quit work." On and from that day Munce took no more meat from Leathem, to his substantial loss.
Another mode adopted by several of the defendants with a view to prevent persons dealing with Leathem was the publication throughout the district of Lisburn of "black lists" containing and holding up to odium, not only his name, but the names of persons who dealt with him, as a warning to those persons that if they wished their names to be removed from the lists they must have no more dealings with him or any other non-society shops. Amongst others, a man named McBride, a customer of Leathem, was operated on by this mode, and ceased to deal with him; attempts were also made by means of such lists to influence two other men named Davis and Hastings. With the object of further inconveniencing Leathem in his trade, two of his weekly servants, Rice and McDonnell, who had been non-union men, were somehow or other induced to join the society and to quit their service with Leathem. It is true they gave due notice of their intention to do so, and as regards them, therefore, no separate cause of action could be maintained. But it is significant that after they had left their service they were paid by the society during the time they were out of work weekly sums of money as compensation for the wages they would have earned with Leathem. As regards the assistant, Robert Dickie, he left his service without any notice in the middle of a week, and so wrongfully broke his contract with his employers, and there was an abundance of evidence that he was induced to do that wrongful act through the unjustifiable influence of the defendants, for Dickie's evidence at the trial was that he was brought out of Leathem's shop by Rice to a meeting of the society in a room over the defendant Dornan's shop; that Shaw (another defendant) was there; that they wanted him to leave Leathem because the rest were out, and promised to pay him what he had from Leathem; that he left, and was paid by Rice for the society and was then in Dornan's service.
The case came on for trial at the Belfast Assizes in July, 1896, before FitzGibbon L.J. and a special jury. The pleadings charged in the first four counts, as separate causes of action, (1.) the procuring Munce to break contracts he had made with Leathem; (2.) the publication by the defendants of "black lists"; (3.) the intimidation of Munce and other persons to break their contracts; and (4.) the coercion of Dickie and other servants to leave the service of the plaintiff. Each of these counts alleged that the acts complained of were done "wrongfully and maliciously, and with intent to injure the plaintiff, and to have occasioned him actual loss, injury, and damage." The fifth and last count charged, also as a separate cause of action, that the defendants unlawfully and maliciously conspired together, and with others, to do the various acts complained of in the previous counts, with intent to injure the plaintiff and his trade and business, and that by reason of the conspiracy he was injured and damaged in his trade. Damages and an injunction were claimed.
The evidence adduced I have already set forth substantially. At the conclusion of it Mr. O'Shaughnessy, Q.C., for the defendants, submitted that they were entitled to a nonsuit upon the grounds that there was no evidence of a contract between Munce and Leathem, nor of any pecuniary damage to the plaintiff by reason of the acts of the defendants, and that the acts of the defendants were legitimate. The learned Lord Justice refused to nonsuit, and I think he rightly refused. For there was clearly evidence for the consideration of the jury upon one or more of (I think upon all) the causes of action. I need not discuss that point further, for it was practically disposed of during the argument before this House.
No evidence was called for the defendants. I regret that no shorthand note of the summing-up of the Lord Justice was furnished to your Lordships. We have, however, a copy of the learned judge's own notes and memoranda. From a careful perusal of these I am satisfied that every indulgence that could have been reasonably given to the learned counsel in presenting his case to the jury was allowed him, and I am satisfied that he must be taken to have acquiesced in the form in which the questions submitted for the consideration of the jury were left to them, even though it might otherwise have been open to criticism.
After commenting upon the evidence relied upon by the plaintiff as proof of actionable misconduct, he told the jury that they had to consider whether the interests and actions of the defendants went beyond the limits which would not bet actionable, namely, securing or advancing their own interests or those of their trade by reasonable means, including lawful combination, or whether their acts, as proved, were intended and calculated to injure the plaintiff in his trade through a combination and with a common purpose to prevent the free action of his customers and servants in dealing with him, and with the effect of actually injuring him as distinguished from acts legitimately done to secure or advance their own interests; that acts done with the object of increasing the profits or raising the wages of any combination of persons, such as the society to which the defendants belonged, by reasonable and legitimate means were perfectly lawful, and were not actionable so long as no wrongful act was maliciously - that is to say, intentionally - done to injure a third party. To constitute such a wrongful act for the purposes of this case, he told the jury that they must be satisfied that there had been a conspiracy, a common intention and a combination on the part of the defendants, to injure the plaintiff in his business, and that acts must be proved to have been done by the defendants in furtherance of that intention which had inflicted actual money loss upon the plaintiff in his trade. And having so told the jury, he proposed to put to them as the question they had to try upon the evidence, Whether the acts of the defendants were or were not in that sense actionable?
I have thought it right, as near as possible, to follow the language of the Lord Justice, for that charge was delivered before Allen v. Flood(1) was decided in this House. In substance I think it was correct, having regard to the case before him. In some respects it seems to me that it was a little too favourable to the defendants, but even had it been otherwise it was uttered in the presence of the defendants' counsel, who desired and was allowed then and there to make such objections as he thought fit to it. He made four only: first, that
the judge had given no definition of damage; second, that he had told the jury that the liability of the defendants depended on a question of law. These two questions were to my mind conclusively answered in the summing-up: see p. 33 of Appendix.
A third objection was that the question relating to the black list should be separately left to the jury. It was then so left, and as to that the judge directed them that there was not sufficient evidence to connect Quinn and Craig with the black lists. By this I take it he meant not as an independent cause of action, there being, in fact, no evidence of Quinn's personal participation in the publication of those lists. But that left him still affected by them as overt acts of the conspiracy, for each of which every one of the conspirators is liable, and the evidence touching the black lists was beyond all question admissible under the conspiracy count.
The fourth objection was that there was no evidence of any binding contract having been broken through the action of the defendants; but the judge then again declined to withdraw that question of contract from the jury, and I think he was right in so refusing at that stage of the trial; and at a later stage, after the whole matter had been disposed of under the conspiracy count, he rightly refrained from putting the question at all, because it had become unnecessary. At the request of the learned counsel, however, he divided the single general question the at first proposed into the three separate questions - (1.) Did the defendants, or any of them, wrongfully and maliciously induce the customers or servants of the plaintiff named in the evidence to refuse to deal with the plaintiff? (2.) Did the defendants, or any two or more of them, maliciously conspire to induce the plaintiff's customers or servants named in the evidence, or any of them, not to deal with the plaintiff or not to continue in his employment, and were such persons so induced not to do so? (3.) Did the defendants Davey, Dornan, and Shaw, or any of them, publish the "black list" with intent to injure the plaintiff in his business, and, if so, did the publication so injure him? The jury answered each of these questions in the affirmative, and assessed the damages against all the defendants at 200 l. ; and with regard to the third question, they found against the defendants Dornan, Davey, and Shaw, with an additional 50 l. as damages against them only. Judgment was given in accordance with that verdict.
If, my Lords, before that judgment was given the counsel for either party had felt it of importance that the specific issues raised upon each count should be determined by the jury, the learned judge would, no doubt, have applied himself to attain that object; but when, as it oftentimes happens in the course of a trial, it is obvious to everybody concerned in it that the case may conveniently be determined by the answer of the jury to one general comprehensive question involving the whole of the material matters at issue, and all parties either expressly or tacitly acquiesce in that view, and such question is accordingly put to and answered by the jury, neither party can afterwards hark back to the original issues raised by the pleader on the record long before it was possible for him to know how the case can best be dealt with when the evidence is all disclosed. Here the real substantial question was whether there had existed between all or any two or more of the defendants an unlawful conspiracy to injure the plaintiff in his trade, and, if so, whether the plaintiff had been specially injured thereby, all the wrongful acts charged in the previous counts being treated as overt acts of such conspiracy. To support that conspiracy count it was not essential that every overt act alleged should be proved, but only a sufficient number of them to support the count. The issues on that count having been found by the jury, and damages assessed in favour of the plaintiff, the separate issues became immaterial, since they had already been treated as incorporated for all purposes of the action in it. I note, in confirmation of this, that the Lord Justice pointedly told the jury that proof of a conspiracy was essential to the support of the action.
In substance, this finding of the jury amounted to a general verdict against all the defendants, except on the issue relating to the black lists, with 200 l. damages, and as to that issue against Davey, Dornan, and Shaw only, with separate and further damages, 50 l.
Rightly understood, I think the judgment in Allen v. Flood(1) is harmless to the present case. But I need hardly say that, in order properly to understand and appreciate it, it is essential to ascertain what were the material facts assumed to exist by their Lordships who assented to that judgment, and what were the principles of law applied by them to those facts. This necessity will be more apparent when it is realized that unanimity of opinion as to the facts certainly did not prevail, that the judges who were called upon to render their assistance to the House were requested to answer this one simple question only, namely, "Assuming the evidence given by the plaintiffs' witnesses to be correct, was there any evidence of a cause of action fit to be left to the jury?" This evidence was only to be found in the Appendix handed to each of the judges as containing the evidence referred to, and to that evidence the judges naturally applied themselves, and upon it their opinions were formed. That evidence of the plaintiffs' witnesses most certainly did not altogether coincide with some very material facts assumed by their Lordships; this will account for variance in the views expressed as to the legal rights and alleged wrongful acts of the parties. It would be an endless task to endeavour to reconcile all these differences of fact and opinion; I will not, therefore, make the attempt.
Some of this confusion arose no doubt from the course taken, rightly or wrongly, at the trial, when all questions of conspiracy, intimidation, coercion, or breach of contract were withdrawn from the jury, the only matters of fact found by them being that Allen maliciously induced the Glengall Company to discharge Flood and Taylor from their employment, and not to engage them again, and that each plaintiff had suffered 20 l. damages.
I collect from the case, as reported, that it was assumed by their Lordships that the Glengall Company were under no contractual obligation to retain the plaintiffs Flood and Taylor in their service for any duration of time, but might dismiss them from their employment at any moment it was their will so to do, and that the boiler-makers were working under the
same conditions; that Allen in making the communication which induced the Glengall Company to dismiss the plaintiffs was doing only that which he had a legal right to do, and they held, therefore, that the plaintiffs had no legal cause of action against either the Glengall Company or the defendant, and that the mere fact as found by the jury that the defendant was actuated by a malicious motive could not convert a rightful into a wrongful act.
This latter proposition, that the exercise of an absolutely legal right cannot be treated as wrongful and actionable merely because a malicious intention prompted such exercise, was established as clear law by this House in Bradford Corporation v. Pickles(1), and it is now too late to dispute it, even if one were disposed to do so, which I am not. It must not, however, be supposed that a malicious intention can in no case be material to the maintenance of an action. It is commonly used to defeat the defence of privilege to do or to say that which without privilege would be wrongful and actionable.
Take the familiar instance of an action for malicious prosecution. It is not a wrongful act for any person who honestly believes that he has reasonable and probable cause, though he has it not in fact, to put the criminal law in motion against another; but if to the absence of such reasonable and probable cause a malicious motive operating upon the mind of such prosecutor is added, that which would have been a rightful (in the sense of a justifiable) act if done without malice becomes with malice wrongful and actionable. What would constitute such malice it is not material for the purposes of this case to define. Of course, if when he instituted criminal proceedings the prosecutor knew he had no reasonable ground for the steps he was taking, the definition of malice given by Bayley J. in Bromage v. Prosser(2) would distinctly apply, and no further proof of malice would be required; but if he really believed he had such reasonable cause, although in fact he had it not, and was actuated not by such belief alone, but also by personal spite or a desire to bring about the imprisonment of or other harm to the accused, or to accomplish some other sinister object
of his own, that personal enmity or sinister motive would be quite sufficient to establish the malice required by law to complete a cause of action - that is, if such malice was found as a fact by the jury.
In this case the alleged cause of action is very different from that in Allen v. Flood.(1) It is not dependent upon coercion to break any particular contract or contracts, though such causes of action are introduced into the claim; but the real and substantial cause of action is an unlawful conspiracy to molest the plaintiff, a trader in carrying on his business, and by so doing to invade his undoubted right, thus described by Alderson B. in delivering the judgment of the Exchequer Chamber in Hilton v. Eckersley(2): "Primâ facie it is the privilege of a trader in a free country in all matters not contrary to law to regulate his own mode of carrying it on according to his own discretion and choice. If the law has in any matter regulated or restrained his mode of doing this, the law must be obeyed. But no power short of the general law ought to restrain his free discretion."
To this I would add the emphatic expression of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, in the Mogul Case(3): "All are free to trade upon what terms they will"; and of Lord Bramwell, who in Reg. v. Druitt(4), in a passage quoted by Lord Halsbury in the same case(5), said: "The liberty of a man's mind and will to say how he should bestow himself and his means, his talents and his industry, was as much a subject of the law's protection as was that of his body." Again, Sir W. Erle thus expresses himself: "Every person has a right under the law as between himself and his fellow-subjects to full freedom in disposing of his own labour or his own capital according to his will. It follows that every other person is subject to the correlative duty arising therefrom, and is prohibited from any obstruction to the fullest exercise of this right which can be made compatible with the exercise of similar rights by others."(6) I am not aware that the rights thus stated have
ever been seriously questioned. I rest my judgment upon the principle expressed in these few sentences. I seek for no more.
The remedy for the invasion of a legal right is thus stated by Lord Watson in his judgment in Allen v. Flood(1): "Any invasion of the civil rights of another person is in itself a legal wrong, carrying with it liability to repair its necessary or natural consequences in so far as these are injurious to the person whose right is infringed."
I cannot suppose any intelligent person reading the evidence adduced on the trial of this case failing to come to the conclusion that the acts complained of amounted to a serious and wrongful invasion of the plaintiff's trade rights, and I am at a loss to comprehend upon what ground it is that the defendants seek to justify or excuse their action towards him.
As members of a trade union society they have no more legal right to commit what would otherwise be unlawful wrongs than if the association to which they are attached had never come into existence. They have no more right to coerce others pursuing the same calling as themselves to join their society, or to adopt their views or rules, than those who differ from them and belong to other trade associations would have a right to coerce them. The Legislature in conferring upon trades unions such privileges as are contained in the Trade Union Acts, 1871 and 1876, does not empower them to do more than make rules for the regulation of their own conduct and to provide for their own mutual assistance, and leaves each member as free to cease to belong to it and to repudiate every obligation for future observance of its rules as though he had never joined it; and most certainly it has not conferred upon any association or any member of it a licence to obstruct or interfere with the freedom of any other person in carrying on his business or bestowing his labour in the way he thinks fit, provided only that it is lawful: see Erle J. in Reg. v. Rowlands(2); and although a combination of members of a trade union for certain purposes is no longer unlawful and criminal as a conspiracy merely because the objects of that combination are in restraint of trade, no
protection is given to any combination or conspiracy which before the passing of the Act of 1871 would have been criminal for other reasons.
Not a word is to be found in the Trade Union Acts or in the Conspiracy Act of 1875 sanctioning such conduct as that complained of. Indeed, one cannot read the 7th section of the latter Act imposing penalties for undue coercion and intimidation without seeing that it had no intention to tolerate such proceedings as in this case are complained of, but rather to protect those upon whom coercive measures might be practised. I may also note that the 3rd section of that Act does not apply to civil proceedings by action.
It would not be useful to examine again all the numerous cases upon the citation and discussion of which much time has been expended, for not one of them would really assist the appellant in defence of his or his co-conspirators' conduct.
The Mogul Case(1) contains no doubt a mass of valuable, interesting, and useful law as to the length to which competing traders may go in pushing and endeavouring to promote their respective interests, and yet keep within bounds that are legal, though the stronger and more wealthy of them may sometimes press hardly upon the weaker whose capital is limited. One trader may by his mode of carrying on his trade hold out attractions and allurements which may enlist so many of his rival's customers as will well-nigh, perhaps wholly, destroy his trade.
But not a word will be found in that case justifying an active interference with the right of every trader to carry on his business in his own manner, so long as he does not interfere with a similar legal right which is vested in his neighbour and observes the correlative duty pointed out by Sir W. Erle.
My noble friend, the Lord Chancellor, accurately summed up the position of things in the Mogul Case(1) in these words: "What legal right was interfered with? What coercion of the mind, will, or person is effected? All are free to trade on what terms they will, and nothing has been done except in
rival trading which could be supposed to interfere with the appellant's interests."
But I will not linger upon a consideration of what may be done in competition, for competition is not even suggested as a justification of the acts now complained of - acts of wanton aggression the outcome of a malicious but successful conspiracy to harm the plaintiff in his trade.
It cannot be - it was not even suggested - that these acts were done in furtherance of any of the lawful objects of the association as set forth in their registered rules, according to the statutory requirement, or in support of any lawful right of the association or any member of it, or to obtain or maintain fair hours of labour or fair wages, or to promote a good understanding between employers and employed and workman and workman, or for the settlement of any dispute, for none had existence. It would, indeed, be a strange mode of promoting such good understanding to coerce a tradesman's customers to leave him because he would not, at the bidding of the association, dismiss workmen who desired to continue in his service and whom he wished to retain to make way for others he did not want.
I will deal now with the conspiracy part of the claim, respecting which much confusion and uncertainty seems somehow to have arisen, which I find it difficult to understand. I have no intention, however, to embark upon a history of the law relating to the subject, or to the old and obsolete writ of conspiracy. It would be useless for our present purpose.
I will endeavour briefly to state how I view the matter practically, so far as it concerns this case.
A conspiracy consists of an unlawful combination of two or more persons to do that which is contrary to law, or to do that which is wrongful and harmful towards another person. It may be punished criminally by indictment, or civilly by an action on the case in the nature of conspiracy if damage has been occasioned to the person against whom it is directed. It may also consist of an unlawful combination to carry out an object not in itself unlawful by unlawful means. The essential elements, whether of a criminal or of an actionable conspiracy, are, in my opinion, the same, though to sustain an action special damage must be proved. This is the substance of the decision in Barber v. Lesiter.(1) I quote as a very instructive definition of a conspiracy the words of a great lawyer, Willes J., in Mulcahy v. Reg.(2), in delivering the unanimous opinion of himself, Blackburn J., Bramwell B., Keating J., and Pigott B., which was adopted by this House: "A conspiracy consists not merely in the intention of two or more, but in the agreement of two or more to do an unlawful act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means. So long as such a design rests in intention only it is not indictable. When two agree to carry it into effect, the very plot is an act in itself, and the act of each of the parties, promise against promise, actus contra actum, capable of being enforced, if lawful, punishable if for a criminal object or for the use of criminal means .... The number and the compact give weight and cause danger."
It is true these words were uttered touching a criminal case, but they are none the less applicable to conspiracies made the subject of civil actions like the present.
In 1870 Cockburn C.J., in delivering the unanimous judgment of Channell B., Cleasby B., Keating and Brett JJ. in Reg. v. Warburton(3), said: "It is not necessary, in order to constitute a conspiracy, that the acts agreed to be done should be acts which if done should be criminal. It is enough if the acts agreed to be done, although not criminal, are wrongful, i.e., amount to a civil wrong."
It has often been debated whether, assuming the existence of a conspiracy to do a wrongful and harmful act towards another and to carry it out by a number of overt acts, no one of which taken singly and alone would, if done by one individual acting alone and apart from any conspiracy, constitute a cause of action, such acts would become unlawful or actionable if done by the conspirators acting jointly or severally in pursuance of their conspiracy, and if by those acts substantial damage was caused to the person against whom the conspiracy was directed: my own opinion is that they would.
In dealing with the question it must be borne in mind that a conspiracy to do harm to another is, from the moment of its formation, unlawful and criminal, though not actionable unless damage is the result.
The overt acts which follow a conspiracy form of themselves no part of the conspiracy: they are only things done to carry out the illicit agreement already formed, and if they are sufficient to accomplish the wrongful object of it, it is immaterial whether singly those acts would have been innocent or wrongful, for they have in their combination brought about the intended mischief, and it is the wilful doing of that mischief, coupled with the resulting damage, which constitutes the cause of action, not of necessity the means by which it was accomplished.
Much consideration of the matter has led me to be convinced that a number of actions and things not in themselves actionable or unlawful if done separately without conspiracy may, with conspiracy, become dangerous and alarming, just as a grain of gunpowder is harmless but a pound may be highly destructive, or the administration of one grain of a particular drug may be most beneficial as a medicine but administered frequently and in larger quantities with a view to harm may be fatal as a poison. Many illustrations of these views might be suggested, but I need them not if I have made myself understood.
The cases bearing upon the subject are not very numerous: the whole subject was fully discussed in the Mogul Case(1) in each of its stages - to it I simply refer. Rex v. Journeymen Tailors of Cambridge(2) was an indictment for a common law conspiracy by workmen to raise wages. On objection taken to the indictment it was upheld for the reason given that the conspiracy was illegal, although the matter about which they conspired might have been lawful for them or any to do if they had not conspired to do it; and Rex v. Eccles(3), before Lord Mansfield, was an indictment for a conspiracy by indirect means to deprive and hinder one Booth from using and
exercising his trade of a tailor, and in pursuance of that conspiracy hindering and preventing him from following his said trade to his great damage. It was held unnecessary to set out the means by which the intended mischief was effected, "for the offence does not consist in doing those acts, for they may be perfectly indifferent, but in conspiring with a view to effect the intended mischief by any means. The illegal combination is the git of the offence." See also per Grose J. in R. v. Mawbey.(1)
If I rightly understand the judgment of Darling J. in Huttley v. Simmons(2), he treated Allen v. Flood(3) as a binding authority compelling him to hold that the object of the conspiracy as proved was not unlawful; in that view he rightly decided that the count for conspiracy could not be maintained. If he had held that, although the object of the conspiracy was unlawful, yet if the overt acts were not so, because they would not have been unlawful if done by one individual without any conspiracy, and had decided on that ground, I should have differed.
I am conscious that I have occupied more of your Lordships' time than I had intended, but the case is of real importance, and I feel that such unlawful conduct as has been pursued towards Mr. Leathem demanded serious attention. I think the law is with him, and that the damages awarded by the jury are under the circumstances very moderate. It is at all times a painful thing for any individual to be the object of the hatred, spite, and ill-will of any one who seeks to do him harm. But that is as nothing compared to the danger and alarm created by a conspiracy formed by a number of unscrupulous enemies acting under an illegal compact, together and separately, as often as opportunity occurs regardless of law, and actuated by malevolence, to injure him and all who stand by him. Such a conspiracy is a powerful and dangerous engine, which in this case has, I think, been employed by the defendants for the perpetration of organized and ruinous oppression.
I think the judgment in the Court below ought to be affirmed and this appeal dismissed with costs.
being no question of conspiracy, intimidation, coercion, or breach of contract for consideration by the House, and the majority of their Lordships having come to the conclusion that Allen had done no more than I have stated, the majority of the noble Lords held that the action against Allen would not lie; that he had infringed no right of the plaintiffs; that he had done nothing which he had no legal right to do, and that the fact that he had acted maliciously and with intent to injure the plaintiffs did not, without more, entitle the plaintiffs to maintain the action.
My Lords, this decision, as I understand it, establishes two propositions: one a far-reaching and extremely important proposition of law, and the other a comparatively unimportant proposition of mixed law and fact, useful as a guide, but of a very different character from the first.
The first and important proposition is that an act otherwise lawful, although harmful, does not become actionable by being done maliciously in the sense of proceeding from a bad motive, and with intent to annoy or harm another. This is a legal doctrine not new or laid down for the first time in Allen v. Flood(1); it had been gaining ground for some time, but it was never before so fully and authoritatively expounded as in that case. In applying this proposition care, however, must be taken to bear in mind, first, that in Allen v. Flood(1)criminal responsibility had not to be considered. It would revolutionise criminal law to say that the criminal responsibility for conduct never depends on intention. Secondly, it must be borne in mind that even in considering a person's liability to civil proceedings the proposition in question only applies to "acts otherwise lawful," i.e., to acts involving no breach of duty, or, in other words, no wrong to any one. I shall refer to this matter later on.
The second proposition is that what Allen did infringed no right of the plaintiffs, even although he acted maliciously and with a view to injure them. I have already stated what he did, and all that he did, in the opinion of the majority of the noble Lords. If their view of the facts was correct, their
conclusion that Allen infringed no right of the plaintiffs is perfectly intelligible, and indeed unavoidable. Truly, to inform a person that others will annoy or injure him unless he acts in a particular way cannot of itself be actionable, whatever the motive or intention of the informant may have been.
My Lords, the questions whether Allen had more power over the men than some of their Lordships thought, and whether Allen did more than they thought, are mere questions of fact. Neither of these questions is a question of law, and no Court or jury is bound as a matter of law to draw from the facts before it inferences of fact similar to those drawn by noble Lords from the evidence relating to Allen in the case before them.
I will pass now to the facts of this case, and consider (1.) what the plaintiff's rights were; (2.) what the defendants' conduct was; (3.) whether that conduct infringed the plaintiff's rights. For the sake of clearness it will be convenient to consider these questions in the first place apart from the statute which legalises strikes, and in the next place with reference to that statute.
1. As to the plaintiff's rights. He had the ordinary rights of a British subject. He was at liberty to earn his own living in his own way, provided he did not violate some special law prohibiting him from so doing, and provided he did not infringe the rights of other people. This liberty involved liberty to deal with other persons who were willing to deal with him. This liberty is a right recognised by law; its correlative is the general duty of every one not to prevent the free exercise of this liberty, except so far as his own liberty of action may justify him in so doing. But a person's liberty or right to deal with others is nugatory, unless they are at liberty to deal with him if they choose to do so. Any interference with their liberty to deal with him affects him. If such interference is justifiable in point of law, he has no redress. Again, if such interference is wrongful, the only person who can sue in respect of it is, as a rule, the person immediately affected by it; another who suffers by it has usually no redress; the damage to him is too remote, and it would be obviously practically impossible and highly inconvenient to give legal redress to all who suffered from such wrongs. But if the interference is wrongful and is intended to damage a third person, and he is damaged in fact - in other words, if he is wrongfully and intentionally struck at through others, and is thereby damnified - the whole aspect of the case is changed: the wrong done to others reaches him, his rights are infringed although indirectly, and damage to him is not remote or unforeseen, but is the direct consequence of what has been done. Our law, as I understand it, is not so defective as to refuse him a remedy by an action under such circumstances. The cases collected in the old books on actions on the case, and the illustrations given by the late Bowen L.J. in his admirable judgment in the Mogul Steamship Company's Case(1), may be referred to in support of the foregoing conclusion, and I do not understand the decision in Allen v. Flood(2) to be opposed to it.
If the above reasoning is correct, Lumley v. Gye(3) was rightly decided, as I am of opinion it clearly was. Further, the principle involved in it cannot be confined to inducements to break contracts of service, nor indeed to inducements to break any contracts. The principle which underlies the decision reaches all wrongful acts done intentionally to damage a particular individual and actually damaging him. Temperton v. Russell(4) ought to have been decided and may be upheld on this principle. That case was much criticised in Allen v. Flood(2), and not without reason; for, according to the judgment of Lord Esher, the defendants' liability depended on motive or intention alone, whether anything wrong was done or not. This went too far, as was pointed out in Allen v. Flood.(2) But in Temperton v. Russell(4) there was a wrongful act, namely, conspiracy and unjustifiable interference with Brentano, who dealt with the plaintiff. This wrongful act warranted the decision, which I think was right.
2. I pass on to consider what the defendants did. The appellant and two of the other defendants were the officers of a trade union, and the jury have found that the defendants wrongfully
and maliciously induced the customers of the plaintiff to refuse to deal with him, and maliciously conspired to induce them not to deal with him. There were similar findings as to inducing servants of the plaintiff to leave him. What the defendants did was to threaten to call out the union workmen of the plaintiff and of his customers if he would not discharge some non-union men in his employ. In other words, in order to compel the plaintiff to discharge some of his men, the defendants threatened to put the plaintiff and his customers, and persons lawfully working for them, to all the inconvenience they could without using violence. The defendants' conduct was the more reprehensible because the plaintiff offered to pay the fees necessary to enable his non-union men to become members of the defendants' union; but this would not satisfy the defendants. The facts of this case are entirely different from those which this House had to consider in Allen v. Flood.(1) In the present case there was no dispute between the plaintiff and his men. None of them wanted to leave his employ. Nor was there any dispute between the plaintiff's customers and their own men, nor between the plaintiff and his customers, nor between the men they respectively employed. The defendants called no witnesses, and there was no evidence to justify or excuse the conduct of the defendants. That they acted as they did in furtherance of what they considered the interests of union men may probably be fairly assumed in their favour, although they did not come forward and say so themselves; but that is all that can be said for them. No one can, I think, say that the verdict was not amply warranted by the evidence. I have purposely said nothing about the black list, as the learned judge who tried the case considered that the evidence did not connect the appellant with that list. But the black list was, in my opinion, a very important feature in the case.
3. The remaining question is whether such conduct infringed the plaintiff's rights so as to give him a cause of action. In my opinion, it plainly did. The defendants were doing a great deal more than exercising their own rights: they were dictating to the plaintiff and his customers and servants what they
were to do. The defendants were violating their duty to the plaintiff and his customers and servants, which was to leave them in the undisturbed enjoyment of their liberty of action as already explained. What is the legal justification or excuse for such conduct? None is alleged, and none can be found. This violation of duty by the defendants resulted in damage to the plaintiff - not remote, but immediate and intended. The intention to injure the plaintiff negatives all excuses and disposes of any question of remoteness of damage. Your Lordships have to deal with a case, not of damnum absque injuria, but of damnum cum injuria.
Every element necessary to give a cause of action on ordinary principles of law is present in this case. As regards authorities, they were all exhaustively examined in the Mogul Steamship Co. v. MacGregor(1) and Allen v. Flood(2), and it is unnecessary to dwell upon them again. I have examined all those which are important, and I venture to say that there is not a single decision anterior to Allen v. Flood(2) in favour of the appellant. His sheet-anchor is Allen v. Flood(2), which is far from covering this case, and which can only be made to cover it by greatly extending its operation.
It was contended at the bar that if what was done in this case had been done by one person only, his conduct would not have been actionable, and that the fact that what was done was effected by many acting in concert makes no difference. My Lords, one man without others behind him who would obey his orders could not have done what these defendants did. One man exercising the same control over others as these defendants had could have acted as they did, and, if he had done so, I conceive that he would have committed a wrong towards the plaintiff for which the plaintiff could have maintained an action. I am aware that in Allen v. Flood(2) Lord Herschell(3) expressed his opinion to be that it was immaterial whether Allen said he would call the men out or not. This may have been so in that particular case, as there was evidence that Allen had no power to call out the men, and the men had
determined to strike before Allen had anything to do with the matter. But if Lord Herschell meant to say that as a matter of law there is no difference between giving information that men will strike and making them strike, or threatening to make them strike, by calling them out when they do not want to strike, I am unable to concur with him. It is all very well to talk about peaceable persuasion. It may be that in Allen v. Flood(1) there was nothing more; but here there was very much more. What may begin as peaceable persuasion may easily become, and in trades union disputes generally does become, peremptory ordering, with threats open or covert of very unpleasant consequences to those who are not persuaded. Calling workmen out involves very serious consequences to such of them as do not obey. Black lists are real instruments of coercion, as every man whose name is on one soon discovers to his cost. A combination not to work is one thing, and is lawful. A combination to prevent others from working by annoying them if they do is a very different thing, and is primâ facie unlawful. Again, not to work oneself is lawful so long as one keeps off the poor-rates, but to order men not to work when they are willing to work is another thing. A threat to call men out given by a trade union official to an employer of men belonging to the union and willing to work with him is a form of coercion, intimidation, molestation, or annoyance to them and to him very difficult to resist, and, to say the least, requiring justification. None was offered in this case.
My Lords, it is said that conduct which is not actionable on the part of one person cannot be actionable if it is that of several acting in concert. This may be so where many do no more than one is supposed to do. But numbers may annoy and coerce where one may not. Annoyance and coercion by many may be so intolerable as to become actionable, and produce a result which one alone could not produce. I am aware of the difficulties which surround the law of conspiracy both in its criminal and civil aspects; and older views have been greatly and, if I may say so, most beneficially modified by the discussions and decisions in America and this country.
Amongst the American cases I would refer especially to Vegelahn v. Guntner(1), where coercion by other means than violence, or threats of it, was held unlawful. In this country it is now settled by the decision of this House in the case of the Mogul Steamship Co.(2) that no action for a conspiracy lies against persons who act in concert damage another and do damage him, but who at the same time merely exercise their own rights and who infringe no rights of other people. Allen v. Flood(3) emphasises the same doctrine. The principle was strikingly illustrated in the Scottish Co-operative Society v. Glasgow Fleshers' Association(4), which was referred to in the course of the argument. In this case some butchers induced some salesmen not to sell meat to the plaintiffs. The means employed were to threaten the salesmen that if they continued to sell meat to the plaintiffs they, the butchers, would not buy from the salesmen. There was nothing unlawful in this, and the learned judge held that the plaintiffs shewed no cause of action, although the butchers' object was to prevent the plaintiffs from buying for co-operative societies in competition with themselves, and the defendants were acting in concert.
The cardinal point of distinction between such cases and the present is that in them, although damage was intentionally inflicted on the plaintiffs, no one's right was infringed - no wrongful act was committed; whilst in the present case the coercion of the plaintiff's customers and servants, and of the plaintiff through them, was an infringement of their liberty as well as his, and was wrongful both to them and also to him, as I have already endeavoured to shew.
Intentional damage which arises from the mere exercise of the rights of many is not, I apprehend, actionable by our law as now settled. To hold the contrary would be unduly to restrict the liberty of one set of persons in order to uphold the liberty of another set. According to our law, competition, with all its drawbacks, not only between individuals, but between associations, and between them and individuals, is permissible, provided nobody's rights are infringed. The law is the same
for all persons, whatever their callings: it applies to masters as well as to men; the proviso, however, is all-important, and it also applies to both, and limits the rights of those who combine to lock-out as well as the rights of those who strike. But coercion by threats, open or disguised, not only of bodily harm but of serious annoyance and damage, is primâ facie, at all events, a wrong inflicted on the persons coerced; and in considering whether coercion has been applied or not, numbers cannot be disregarded.
My Lords, the appellant relied on several authorities besides those already referred to, which I will shortly notice. No coercion of the plaintiff's employer, customers, servants, or friends had to be considered in Kearney v. Lloyd.(1) This is fully shewn in the various judgments now under review.
In Huttley v. Simmons(2) the plaintiff was a cab-driver in the employ of a cab-owner. The defendants were four members of a trade union who were alleged to have maliciously induced the cab-owner not to employ the plaintiff, and not to let him have a cab to drive. The report does not state the means employed to induce the cab-owner to refuse to have any dealings with the plaintiff. The learned judge who tried the case held that as to three of the defendants the plaintiff had no case, and that as to the fourth, against whom the jury found a verdict, no action would lie because he had done nothing in itself wrong, apart from motive, and that the fact that he acted in concert with others made no difference. It is difficult to draw any satisfactory conclusion from this case, as the most material facts are not stated.
I conclude this part of the case by saying that, in my opinion, the direction given to the jury by the learned judge who tried the case was correct, so far as the liability of the defendants turns on principles of common law, and that the objection taken to it by the counsel for the appellant is untenable. I mean the objection that the learned judge did not distinguish between coercion to break contracts of service, and coercion to break contracts of other kinds, and coercion not to enter into contracts.
I pass now to consider the effect of the statute 38 & 39 Vict. c. 86. This Act clearly recognises the legality of strikes and lock-outs up to a certain point. It is plainly legal now for workmen to combine not to work except on their own terms. On the other hand, it is clearly illegal for them or any one else to use force or threats of violence to prevent other people from working on any terms which they think proper. But there are many ways short of violence, or the threat of it, of compelling persons to act in a way which they do not like. There are annoyances of all sorts and degrees: picketing is a distinct annoyance, and if damage results is an actionable nuisance at common law, but if confined merely to obtaining or communicating information it is rendered lawful by the Act (s. 7). Is a combination to annoy a person's customers, so as to compel them to leave him unless he obeys the combination, permitted by the Act or not? It is not forbidden by s. 7; is it permitted by s. 3? I cannot think that it is. The Court of Appeal (of which I was a member) so decided in Lyons v. Wilkins(1), in the case of Schoenthal, which arose there, and is referred to in the judgment of Walker L.J. at p. 99 of the printed judgments in this case. This particular point had not to be reconsidered when Lyons v. Wilkins(1) came before the Court of Appeal after the decision in Allen v. Flood.(2) But Byrne J. modified the injunction granted on the first occasion(3) by confining it to watching and besetting. He might safely have gone further and have restrained the use of other unlawful means; but the strike was then over, and his modification was not objected to, and cannot be regarded as an authority in favour of the appellant's contention.
It must be conceded that if what the defendants here did had been done by one person it would not have been punishable as a crime. I cannot myself see that there was in this case any trade dispute between employers and workmen within the meaning of s. 3. I am not at present prepared to say that the officers of a trade union who create strife by calling out members of the union working for an employer with whom none of them
have any dispute can invoke the benefit of this section even on an indictment for a conspiracy.
But assuming that there was a trade dispute within the meaning of s. 3, and that an indictment for conspiracy could not be sustained in a case like this, the difference between an indictment for a conspiracy and an action for damages occasioned by a conspiracy is very marked and is well known. An illegal agreement, whether carried out or not, is the essential element in a criminal case; the damage done by several persons acting in concert, and not the criminal conspiracy, is the important element in the action for damages.(1) In my opinion, it is quite clear that s. 3 has no application to civil actions: it is confined entirely to criminal proceedings. Nor can I agree with those who say that the civil liability depends on the criminality, and that if such conduct as is complained of has ceased to be criminal it has therefore ceased to be actionable. On this point I will content myself by saying that I agree with Andrews J. and those who concurred with him. It does not follow, and it is not true, that annoyances which are not indictable are not actionable. The law relating to nuisances, to say nothing of the law relating to combinations, shews that many annoyances are actionable which are not indictable, and the principles of justice on which this is held to be so appear to me to apply to such cases as these.
My Lords, I will detain your Lordships no longer. Allen v. Flood(2) is in many respects a very valuable decision, but it may be easily misunderstood and carried too far.
Your Lordships are asked to extend it and to destroy that individual liberty which our laws so anxiously guard. The appellant seeks by means of Allen v. Flood(2), and by logical reasoning based upon some passages in the judgments given by the noble Lords who decided it, to drive your Lordships to hold that boycotting by trades unions in one of its most objectionable forms is lawful, and gives no cause of action to its victims although they may be pecuniarily ruined thereby.
My Lords, so to hold would, in my opinion, be contrary to
well-settled principles of English law, and would be to do what is not yet authorized by any statute or legal decision.
In my opinion this appeal ought to be dismissed with costs.
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