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Brimelow v Casson [1924] 1 Ch 302

Tort - Contract - Interference with Contractual Rights - Procuring Breach of Contract - Justification - Trade Disputes Act 1906

Facts:

Brimelow was a theatrical manager and Casson was a member of the Joint Protection Committee, effectively a trade union of sorts. The minimum wage for chorus girls was at a set weekly rate. Brimelow paid his chorus girls around half of the minimum wage and had a clause in the contract which meant the girls did not get paid for weeks they were rehearsing. Many girls were forced to supplement their income with prostitution. Casson intended to stop chorus girls resorting to prostitution by inducing theatre proprietors not to allow Brimelow the use of their theatres by breaking or refusing contracts.

Issues:

Whether a breach of contract is justified on grounds of morality.

Held:

Casson was found to be justified in his actions as the union owed a duty of care to their members and a duty to take all necessary steps to compel Brimelow to pay his employees a fair living wage, so they should not be driven to prostitution to supplement their income. South Wales Miners’ Federation v Glamorgan Coal Co Ltd [1905] AC 239 was distinguished, as there had been no moral justification to interfere as a third party, and violate an employer’s legal contracting rights. Further, there was no reason the chorus girls should not have been paid the set minimum wage. The Committee set minimum wage was an indication as to what could reasonably be an expected wage one could afford to live on. Paying a wage so low as to force young girls into prostitution was deemed immoral and discredited the girls’ theatrical careers. Therefore, moral interference was deemed a justification for causing injury and loss to Brimelow.


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