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Torquay Hotel Co Ltd v Cousins [1969] 2 Ch 106

Employment - Civil Procedure - Breach of Contract - Industry disputes - Injunctions - force majeure

Facts:

Cousins was part of a trade union. Members of the trade union called a strike at the Torbay Hotel and the Imperial hotel owned by the plaintiffs. Esso were contracted to deliver oil to the hotels but due to the strike, were unable to do so, requiring the plaintiffs to obtain oil from a different supplier at a higher price.The union members failed to comply with an undertaking to withdraw their strike. The plaintiffs issued a writ seeking damages against the union and individual members for its procurement of the breach of contract between Esso and the plaintiffs. Cousins and the other union members appealed.

Issues:

Whether the granting of an injunction against a third party was justified, where a contract clause allowed for any interference arising from a labour dispute.

Held:
Appeal dismissed as the plaintiffs had employed no members of the union and therefore, Cousins’ acts were against the manager and not in furtherance of a trade dispute within the meaning of the Trade Disputes Act 1906, s 4 (1). The case of Lumley v Gye [1853] 2 E & B 216 was distinguished as different considerations applied to indirect inducement in a competitive economy and there had been no inducement by unlawful means. Cousins and associates could not rely on any of the exceptions in the plaintiff’s contract with Esso, even where neither party would be liable for a breach if they were hindered by a force majeure or labour dispute. There was sufficient evidence to show that the plaintiffs did mean to interfere directly with the contracts between the plaintiff and the fuel suppliers. Thus, the granting of injunctions was justified.


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