This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
In considering the question of the liability of an individual who induces one person to break his contract with another we are met at the outset by a hopeless difference of authority as to the general principle underlying the subject. Does this principle apply to all contracts or only to certain classes of contracts such as contracts of employment? On this question there is such divergence as to make a general statement impossible. Considering first, therefore, contracts of employment, we find that the leading case at Modern Law is Lumley v. Gye.1 A had a contract with B to sing at B's theater. X induced A to break her contract with B. B sued X for damages, and it was held that B could recover. This case was decided by a divided court, the majority of which agreed that there should be a recovery, but differed as to the ground on which recovery should be placed. One judge took the view that such interference with any contract was a tort; one, that the tort existed wherever a contract of employment was thus interfered with, but that the principle should be limited to contracts of employment; while the third held that the principle applied only where the contract was with one who was in the strict sense of the term a servant, and hence could have no application to such a contract as was here presented. The divergence of judicial opinion in this case was only a shadow, cast before, of the divergence of authority to follow. In England Lumley v. Gye was followed in a case the facts of which were similar,2 and the reasoning of the court re-affirmed to be discussed, namely, whether the injured party has a light of action against the party who is guilty of a wrongful act in interfering with contract, there is even greater conflict.7 the broad principle that interference with a contract of any subject-matter might be a tort. This principle was thought by some authorities to be discarded by the House of Lords in Allen v. Flood,3 but in a case decided three years later,4 the House of Lords, while still dealing with contracts of employment, took the view that the principle involved was broad enough to apply to all contracts.
7 See Sec. 1326 et seq.
1 2 El. & Bl. 216; 75 E. C. L. 216.
2 Bowen v. Hall, 6 Q. B. D. 333.