D C Thomson and Co Ltd v Deakin: CA 1952

The defendant Trades Union was alleged to have indirectly prevented a supplier from performing its contract to supply paper to the plaintiffs by inducing its members to withdraw their services from the supplier.
Held: It is a tort at common law knowingly to have contractual dealings which are inconsistent with a prior contract. It is also a tort for a third party directly to do an act, with knowledge of the contract, which, if done by one of the parties to the contract, would have been a breach of contract. Lord Evershed MR considered the tort of directly inducing a breach of contract, saying that it was conceded that the defendant must have acted with the intention of doing damage to the person damaged and that he must have succeeded in his efforts. So far as indirectly procuring a breach of contract was concerned, the same intention had to be proved, but the tort would only be committed if the acts indirectly inducing the breach of contract involved wrongful conduct.
Jenkins LJ said: ‘First . . . there may . . be an actionable interference with contractual rights where other means of interference than persuasion or procurement or inducement, in the sense of influence of one kind or another brought to bear on the mind of the contract breaker to cause him to break his contract, are used by the interferer; but, secondly, that (apart from conspiracy to injure, which, as I have said, is not in question so far as this motion is concerned) acts of a third party lawful in themselves do not constitute an actionable interference with contractual rights merely because they bring about a breach of contract, even if they were done with the object and intention of bringing about such breach.’
Lord Evershed MR: ‘It was suggested in the course of argument by Sir Frank Soskice and by Mr. Lindner, that the tort must still be properly confined to such direct intervention, that is, to cases where the intervener or persuader uses by personal intervention persuasion on the mind of one of the parties to the contract so as to procure that party to break it. I am unable to agree that any such limitation is logical, rational or part of our law. In such cases where the intervener (if I may call him such) does so directly act upon the mind of a party to the contract as to cause him to break it, the result is, for practical purposes, as though in substance he, the intervener, is breaking the contract, although he in not a party to it . . At any rate, it is clear that, when there is such a direct intervention by the intervener, the intervention itself is thereby considered wrongful. I cannot think that the result is any different if the intervener, instead of so acting upon the mind of the contracting party himself, by some other act, tortious in itself, prevents the contracting party from performing the bargain. A simple case is where the intervener, for example, physically detains the contracting party so that the contracting party is rendered unable by the detention to perform the contract.’


Jenkins LJ, Lord Evershed MR


[1952] Ch 646


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedR Griggs Group Ltd and others v Evans and others (No 2) ChD 12-May-2004
A logo had been created for the claimants, by an independent sub-contractor. They sought assignment of their legal title, but, knowing of the claimant’s interest the copyright was assigned to a third party out of the jurisdiction. The claimant . .
CitedOBG Ltd OBG (Plant and Transport Hire) Ltd v Raymond International Ltd; OBG Ltd v Allen CA 9-Feb-2005
The defendants had wrongfully appointed receivers of the claimant, who then came into the business and terminated contracts undertaken by the business. The claimant asserted that their actions amounted to a wrongful interference in their contracts . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) CA 18-May-2005
The principal claimants sold the rights to take photographs of their wedding to a co-claimant magazine (OK). Persons acting on behalf of the defendants took unauthorised photographs which the defendants published. The claimants had retained joint . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others; similar HL 2-May-2007
In Douglas, the claimants said that the defendants had interfered with their contract to provide exclusive photographs of their wedding to a competing magazine, by arranging for a third party to infiltrate and take and sell unauthorised photographs. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Contract

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.199515