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Dimskal Shipping Co. S.A. v International Transport Workers Federation [1991] 3 W.L.R. 875

Trade Dispute - Interference with contractual rights - Inducement by Defendants

Facts:

The Plaintiffs owned a vessel manned by Greeks and Filipinos when it docked at a Swedish port. An agent of I.T.F informed the plaintiff that unless their workers enter into employment contracts with their crew and the I.T.F, the vessel would be blacked. The agent demanded the employees be paid in accordance with the I.T.F pay scale and that payments be backdated. The agreements also stipulated that the association with I.T.F was completely voluntary on the part of the plaintiff. The plaintiff orally agreed but failed to comply with the demands resulting in the vessel being blackened, so they signed. The Plaintiffs then brought action for duress, seeking damages for the torts of intimidation and interference with contractual rights. The I.T.F’s actions were lawful under Swedish law so they sought damages for a breach of contract.

Issues:

Whether duress was the reason that the Plaintiffs had breached their contractual duties and whether there was duress under English law.

Held:

The appeal by I.T.F was dismissed. The law governing the contract was found to be English law and Swedish law. Dimskal’s default in payment could be due to the duress that I.T.F put them under, as there was nothing in English law that said that the blacking of a ship did not amount to duress. Thus, although the laws of the country apply to all persons as far as criminal activity is concerned, it does not apply to contract law where a party is entitled to rely on the law of their own country, unless otherwise specified.


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