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Mogul Steamship Co Ltd v McGregor, Gow & Co [1889] LR 23 QBD 598

Tort - Conspiracy to Injury - Damages

Facts:

The plaintiffs were independent shipowners who sent their ships to the cargo port to obtain cargo. An association (the defendants), also in the business of owning cargo ships, sent more ships down to the port and reduced their freights so low that the plaintiffs were unable to make a profit. They further threatened to dismiss any agents who loaded the plaintiff’s ships. The plaintiff brought action alleging a conspiracy to injury and requested damages.

Issues:

Whether the defendant’s actions were unlawful and deemed an indictable offence by way of a conspiracy.

Held:

The defendants had acted in an effort to protect their own profits and trade which was considered to be a lawful objective. No unlawful acts had taken place to warrant any wrongdoing, so therefore the plaintiffs had no cause of action. To prove that a conspiracy constituting an indictable offence occurred, a “matter contrary to law” would have to be shown to have occurred. Lord Halsbury found it impossible to suggest that there had been any malicious intention to injure rival traders, except in the sense that they intended their competitors to withdraw from trade. The defendant's actions were therefore considered to be actions taken to support their own business interests. Further, unlawful acts would have to involve obstruction, violence, interference or molestation to meet the definition. None of those occurred. The appeal was upheld and no cause of action was available for the plaintiffs.


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