Lumley v Gye: 1853

Inducing breach of contract is a Tort

An opera singer (Miss Wagner) and the defendant theatre owner were joint wrongdoers. They had a common design that the opera singer should break her contract with the plaintiff theatre owner, refuse to sing in the plaintiff’s theatre and instead sing in the defendant’s theatre. The plaintiff’s cause of action against the opera singer lay in contract, and the plaintiff’s cause of action against the defendant lay in tort.
Held: The opera singer and the defendant were joint wrongdoers participating in an unlawful common design. An actionable wrong is committed by a person deliberately inducing a party to a contract to breach it. A person who procures another to commit a wrong incurs liability as an accessory.
Erle J said: ‘It is clear that the procurement of the violation of a right is a cause of action in all instances where the violation is an actionable wrong, as in violations of a right to property, whether real or personal, or to personal security: he who procures the wrong is a joint wrongdoer, and may be sued, either alone or jointly with the agent, in the appropriate action for the wrong complained of. Where a right to the performance of a contract has been violated by a breach thereof, the remedy is upon the contract, against the contracting party; and, if he made to indemnify for such breach, no further recourse is allowed; and, as in a case of the procurement of a breach of contract, the action is for a wrong and cannot be joined with the action on the contract, and as the act itself is not likely to be of frequent occurrence nor easy of proof, therefore the action for this wrong, in respect of other contracts than those of hiring, are not numerous; but still they seem to me sufficient to show that the principle has been recognised.’ and ‘He who maliciously procures a damage to another by violation of his right ought to be made to indemnify; and that, whether he procures an actionable wrong or a breach of contract.’

Erle J
(1853) 2 E and B 216, [1853] EngR 15, (1853) 2 El and Bl 216, (1853) 118 ER 749, [1853] EWHC QB J73
Commonlii, Bailii
England and Wales
See AlsoLumley v Wagner 1852
A girl (under age) and her father contracted for her to perform at a theatre abroad, and later not to use her talents without the consent of her manager. She contracted with a competing theatre. She resisted an action by the manager saying that the . .

Cited by:
CitedGenerale Bank Nederland Nv (Formerly Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland Nv) v Export Credits Guarantee Department HL 19-Feb-1999
The wrong of the servant or agent for which the master or principal is liable is one committed in the case of a servant in the course of his employment, and in the case of an agent in the course of his authority. It is fundamental to the whole . .
CitedCBS Songs Ltd v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc HL 12-May-1988
The plaintiffs as representatives sought to restrain Amstrad selling equipment with two cassette decks without taking precautions which would reasonably ensure that their copyrights would not be infringed by its users.
Held: Amstrad could only . .
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 . .
ExtendedTorquay Hotel v Cousins CA 17-Dec-1968
The plaintiff contracted to buy oil for his hotel from Esso. Members of the defendant trades union blocked the deliveries of oil by Esso to the Hotel because of a trade dispute they had with the management of the hotel. The hotel sued for an . .
DistinguishedAllen v Flood HL 14-Dec-1898
Tort of Malicicious Inducement not Committed
Mr Flood had in the course of his duties as a trade union official told the employers of some ironworkers that the ironworkers would go on strike, unless the employers ceased employing some woodworkers, who the ironworkers believed had worked on . .
CitedBelegging-en Exploitatiemaatschappij Lavender BV v Witten Industrial Diamonds Ltd 1979
The defendants sold diamond grit allegedly for the sole purpose of making grinding tools in which it was to be embedded in a resin bond as part of a grinding material patented by the plaintiffs.
Held: The defendants could not be infringers . .
CitedMCA Records Inc and Another v Charly Records Ltd and others (No 5) CA 5-Oct-2001
The court discussed the personal liability of a director for torts committed by his company: ‘i) a director will not be treated as liable with the company as a joint tortfeasor if he does no more than carry out his constitutional role in the . .
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. . .
See AlsoLumley v Gye (2) 14-Jan-1854
A commission, under stat. 1 W. 4, c. 22, S. 4, issued at the instance of the defendant, directed to an English barrister, to examine witnesses in Germany. The witness, a Prussian subject, being at Berlin, the commissiotier went thither, but learned . .
CitedVertical Leisure Ltd v Poleplus Ltd and Another IPEC 27-Mar-2015
Claims were made alleging infringement of domain name and trade mark rights in accessories for use with pole dancing kits. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contract, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.183576