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.
It is axiomatic that an act does not amount to a tort unless it is at least wrongful. One who without negligence does an act which he has a right to do, does not thereby incur liability as a wrongdoer. If X does something which he has a legal right to do, the fact that the consequence of this rightful act is B's breach or termination of his contract with A, does not give to A a right of action against X.1
1 Haines v. Welker, 182 Ia. 431, 166 N. W. 1027; Banks v. Eastern Railway & Lumber Co., 46 Wash. 610, 11 L. R.
A. (N.S.) 485. 90 Pac. 1048.
If A gives a valid assignment of his wages to X, knowing that A's employer,
B, will discharge A, if he learns of such assignment. X's act in presenting such assignment to B and thereby causing A's discharge, does not give to A a right of action against X. Haines v. Welker, 1 82 Ia. 431, 165 N. W. 1027. "In an amendment to petition the appellee asserts that his discharge was caused because he made such assignment. And we think that this allegation is proved. But it does not follow that this makes the defendants responsible for loss occasioned by such discharge. In effect, the position of appellee on this head is that he executed this assignment because it was demanded as security; that both plaintiff and defendant knew that if such an assignment became known to the employer plaintiff would be discharged; that the assignment being of exempt wages was void because the wife of plaintiff did not join therein; that when the defendants transferred their notes they transferred therewith the said assignment; that as part of the plan involved in the transfer such assignment was brought to the notice of the employer; and that therefore the plaintiff was discharged. It might be said that the rule of the employer concerning discharge because of an assignment of wages refers only to a valid assignment, and that when plaintiff claims the assignment was ' void he meets his own case and demonstrates that such assignment as was made did not cause his discharge. But we do not care to place ourselves upon that ground in view of the fact that, valid or void, the employer thought it suffi-cient cause for discharge. We confine the decision to the question whether the execution of a valid assignment, and the bringing of the same to the notice of the employer by the defendants, gave the plaintiff a right of action for loss due to the ensuing discharge. The plaintiff was at liberty to borrow or not to borrow. This carried with it the right to refuse making the assignment. He chose to make it. He knew that he gave it to secure his debt; he gave it so that the debt might be satisfied out of the wages assigned. He knew this could not be effected without advising the employer of the existence of the assignment. Had the as signment been presented, though no transfer of the notes had been made, and though no suit had been instituted in Nebraska, its effect upon his employment would have been just what it was in the actual case. So that, in the last analysis, the claim of the plaintiff at this point is that, because he gave a security which might lose him his employment if brought to the knowledge of his employer, the one who took the assignment is responsible for loss caused because the employer became advised of such assignment. It was no wrong to take the assignment; it was no wrong to advise the employer of its existence. If it was wrong, it was as much the act of the plaintiff as of the defendant, and he may not recover on this account under the maxim volenti non fit injuria." Haines v. Welker, 182 Ia. 431, 165 N. W. 1027.
But while this principle is recognized in the cases generally, including those on this topic, the application of so general and vague a principle to facts treated of in this chapter, on which the law is so unsettled, results in considerable conflict. Interference with an existing contract is almost always wrongful.2 If the interference is intended to injure the party who loses the benefit of the contract or to benefit the party who interferes, it is ordinarily wrongful.3 Yet even in cases of this sort it has been held that the refusal of members of a trades-union to work for an employer unless he discharged employes who were members of a rival union, was not wrongful.4 This principle, where recognized, is referred to the doctrine of the right of competition.
See, Unfair Methods of Competition, by Gilbert H. Montague, 25 Yale Law Journal, 20.
See also, Tuttle v. Buck, 107 Minn. 145, 119 N. W. 946.
2 The act of procuring a breach of a contract is held to be of itself unlawful. Schwenn v. Schwenn, 166 Wis. 420, 2 A. L. R. 281, 166 N. W. 171.
See Sec. 2423 et seq.
If employes ask advice of others as to the line of conduct to be pursued by them for their own interests, the parties, giving such advice are not liable to the employers for damages, even if as a result thereof the workmen discontinue work.5 Where the workmen, coal miners, were paid on a sliding scale, their wages varying with the price of coal; and the workmen, believing that the wholesalers who bought the coal from the employers of such workmen were using unfair means to force the price down, consulted their organization, and were advised to stop work on certain specified dates, as a demonstration to prevent such conduct in forcing down the price. It will be observed that this was not strictly a strike, although work was discontinued, and it was done to influence the conduct not of the employers, but of other persons. It was held that if the advice to stop work on certain days was given honestly, without malice, though the persons giving it knew of the existing contracts of the miners with their employers, such facts constitute lawful justification and excuse.6