Unlawful Means Conspiracy has two forms
Quinn was treasurer of a Belfast butchers’ association. Leathem, who traded as a butcher, employed some non-union men, although when the union made difficulties he asked for them to be admitted to the union, and offered to pay their dues. The union put pressure on Munce, a wholesale customer of Leathem, to stop buying his meat. It also called out Dickie, one of Leathem’s employees. The jury found for Leathem, holding that there had been a malicious conspiracy between Quinn and other officers of the union. The Irish Court of Appeal affirmed this.
Held: The appeal failed. A conspiracy ‘wrongfully and maliciously’ to induce customers and servants of the plaintiff not to deal with him was actionable on proof of damage. Though the coming together of a group of people is lawful, even though it results in injury to the interests of others, such an agreement for no purpose other than the pursuit of a malicious purpose to injure another would be unlawful. Any violation of legal rights, including rights under contract, committed knowingly and without justification, is a tortious act.
Lord MacNaghten said of Lumley v Gye: ‘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 a 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.’
He explained the rationale of the tort as follows: ‘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 suffer 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.’
Lord Lindley said that Lumley v Gye tort was an example of causing loss by unlawful means: ‘If the above reasoning is correct, Lumley v. Gye 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, or 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.’ and
‘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 suffer 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.’
Lord Shand distinguished Allen v Flood: ‘As to the vital distinction between Allen v Flood and the present case, it may be stated in a single sentence. In Allen v Flood 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 distinguish from the intention of legitimately advancing their own interest.”
Earl of Halsbury LC said: ‘. . a case is only an authority for what it actually decides.’
Lord Shand, Lord Macnaghten, Lord Lindley, Earl of Halsbury LC
 AC 495,  UKHL 2
England and Wales
Distinguished – Allen 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 . .
Cited – OBG 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 . .
Cited – Douglas 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 . .
Cited – GWK Ltd v Dunlop Rubber Co Ltd 1926
GWK company made motor cars and the ARM company made tyres. GWK contracted to fit all their new cars with ARM tyres and to show them with ARM tyres at trade exhibitions. On the night before a motor show in Glasgow, Dunlop employees removed the ARM . .
Cited – Douglas 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. . .
Cited – Total Network Sl v Revenue and Customs HL 12-Mar-2008
The House was asked whether an action for unlawful means conspiracy was available against a participant in a missing trader intra-community, or carousel, fraud. The company appealed a finding of liability saying that the VAT Act and Regulations . .
Cited – Torquay 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 . .
Cited – Close v Steel Company of Wales Ltd 1962
The pursuer sought damages after injury arising from the use of a tool for a purpose other than that for which it was intended to be used. Lord Denning quoted Sir Frederick Pollock to say: ‘Judicial authority belongs not to the exact words used in . .
Cited – Air Canada and Others v Emerald Supplies Limited and Others CA 14-Oct-2015
Appeal against case management directions given by Peter Smith J. . .
Cited – Youngsam, Regina (on The Application of) v The Parole Board Admn 7-Apr-2017
The claimant challenged being recalled to prison from licence after being found in an area from which he was excluded as a condition of his parole. . .
Cited – JSC BTA Bank v Khrapunov SC 21-Mar-2018
A had been chairman of the claimant bank. After removal, A fled to the UK, obtaining asylum. The bank then claimed embezzlement, and was sentenced for contempt after failing to disclose assets when ordered, but fled the UK. The Appellant, K, was A’s . .
Cited – Secretary of State for Health and Another v Servier Laboratories Ltd and Others SC 2-Jul-2021
Economic tort of causing loss by unlawful means
The Court was asked whether the ‘dealing requirement’ is a constituent part of the tort of causing loss by unlawful means; whether a necessary element of the unlawful means tort is that the unlawful means should have affected the third party’s . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Torts – Other, Contract, Constitutional
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.223001