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Lumley v. Gye

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff had a contract with Wagner for her to perform for Plaintiff. Defendant knew of this contract and maliciously retained Wagner to perform for Defendant instead. Plaintiff sued Defendant for inducement of breech of contract.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. If a party maliciously interferes in a contract performance, he is liable in damages for that interference.

    Facts. Lumley (Plaintiff) entered into a contract with Miss Wagner for her to sing for three months at Plaintiff’s theatre. Under the contract Wagner was not permitted to sing or use her talents elsewhere. Gye (Defendant) then entered into a deal with Wagner for her to sing at his theatre for more money. Plaintiff sued and asked that Defendant pay for damages for maliciously interfering with his contract with Wagner. Defendant’s demur was granted. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. If a party maliciously interferes in a contract performance, is he liable in damages for that interference?

    Held. Yes. Judgment for Plaintiff.
    * A person who wrongfully and maliciously, or, which is the same thing, with notice, interrupts the relation subsisting between master and servant by procuring the servant to depart from the master’s service, or by harboring and keeping him as servant after he has quitted it and during the time stipulated for as the period of service, whereby the master is injured, commits a wrongful act for which he is responsible at law. He who maliciously procures damage to another by violation of his right ought to be made to indemnify.
    * Miss Wagner has contracted to do work for Plaintiff within the meaning of this rule, and where a party has contracted to give his personal services for a certain time to another; the parties are in the relation of employer and employed, or master and servant.
    * Courts are justified in applying the principle of action for enticing away servants to a case where the defendant maliciously procures a party, who is under a valid contract to giver her exclusive personal services to the plaintiff for a specified period, to refuse to give such services during the period for which she had so contracted, whereby the plaintiff was injured.

    Dissent. (J. Coleridge) Remedies for a breach of contract by law are confined to the contracting parties. If there be any remedy by action of a stranger to that contract, it must be on the case (in tort for trespass). Malice is an essential element of an action for interference in a contract as well as direct and proximate causation.

    Discussion. Inducement of breach of contract is also called tortuous interference ith contractual relations; a third parties intentional inducement of a contracting party to break a contract, causing damage to the relationship between the contracting parties. Modernly the tort of inducement of breach has been expanded to all types of contractual undertakings.


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