Intermediate between ordinary cases of interference with an existing contract, and cases of the prevention of future contracts, are cases of existing contracts which can be terminated at the option of one of the parties thereto. The question is then presented whether interference whereby such person is induced to exercise such option is a tort. The weight of authority is that such conduct amounts to a tort if interference with a contract not voidable at the option of the party would be a tort.1 It is. a tort to make use of wrongful means to induce an employer to discharge an employe,2 or to induce an employe to quit work,3 even if there is no employment for any fixed time. So a combination to cause the discharge of one whom his employer could discharge at his pleasure at the end of any week, is a tort.4 Where no action lies for causing breach of a contract of employment for an indefinite time, it is either because in that jurisdiction no action lies, even if the contract is for a definite time,5 or because the discharge is for other reasons not wrongful.6 A combination to induce or coerce customers to quit dealing with one with whom they have no binding contracts, but with whom they are in the habit of dealing, is actionable in tort.7
5 Cumberland Glass Mfg. Co. v. De Witt, 120 Md. 381, 87 Atl. 927: Rice v. Manley. 66 X. Y. 82, 23 Am. Rep. 30; Benton v. Pratt. 2 Wend. (N. Y.) 386, 20 Am. Dec. 623.
6 Cumberland Glass Mfg. Co. v. De Witt, 120 Md. 381, 87 Atl. 927: Rice v. Manley, 66 N. Y. 82, 23 Am. Rep. 30; Benton v. Pratt, 2 Wend. (X. Y.) 385. 20 Am. Dec. 623.
1 Florida. Chipley v. Atkinson, 23 Fla. 206, 11 Am. St. Rep. 367, 1 So. 934.
Kentucky. Chambers v. Probst, 145 Ky 381, 36 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1207, 140 S.W. 572.
Maine. Perkins v. Pendleton. 90 Me. 166, 60 Am. St. Rep. 252, 38 Atl. 96.
Maryland. Lucke v. Clothing Cutters' & T. Assembly, 77 Md. 396, 19 L. R. A. 408, 39 Am. St. Rep. 421, 26 Atl. 505; McCarter v. Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, 126 Md. 131, 94 Atl. 641.
Massachusetts. Moran v. Dunphy, 177 Mass. 485, 52 L. R. A. 115, 83 Am. St. Rep. 289, 59 N. E. 125; Berry v. Donovan. 188 Mass. 353, 108 Am. St. Rep. 499. 5 L. R. A. (N.S.) 899, 3 Am. & Eng. Ann. Cas. 738, 74 N. E. 603.
New Jersey. Brennan v. United Hatters, 73 N. J. L. 729, 118 Am. St. Rep. 727, 9 L. R. A. (N.S.) 254. 9 Am. & Eng. Ann. Cas. 698, 65 Atl. 165; Jonas Glass Co. v. Glass Bottle Blowere' Assn., 77 N. J. Eq. 219, 41 L. R. A. (N. S.) 445, 79 Atl. 262.
2 England. Read v. Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons . 2 K. B. 732.
United States. Blumenthal v. Shaw, 77 Fed. 954. 23 C. C. A. 690.
Florida. Chipley v. Atkinsun, 23 Fla. 206, 11 Am. St. Rep. 367, 1 So. 934.
Illinois. London Guarantee & Accident Co. v. Horn, 206 111. 493, 99 Am. St. Rep. 185, 69 N. E. 526.
Kentucky. Chambers v. Probst, 145 Ky. 381, 36 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1207, 140 S. W. 572.
Maryland. McCarter v. Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, 126 Md. 131, 94 Atl. 541.
Massachusetts. Berry v. Donovan, 188 Maes. 353, 5 L. R. A. (N.S.) 899. 74 N. E. 603; Shinksy v. Tracey, 226 Mass. 21, L. R. A. 1917C, 1053, 114 N. E. 957.
New Jersey. Brennan v. United Hatters, etc., 73 N. J. L. 729, 118 Am. St. Rep. 727, 9 L. R. A. (N.S.) 254, 65 Atl. 165.
In some states, however, the fact that the party who is induced to terminate the contract has a legal right so to do, prevents the act of a third person in causing him to terminate it from being a tort, though it would have been a tort had such right to terminate it not existed.8 Thus A, a vendor of land, had agreed that B might withdraw from the contract for any reason that he saw fit. X, a broker, who negotiated the sale, made false and fraudulent representations to B, and thereby induced him to withdraw from such contract. It was held that A had no right of action against B.9 If no definite contract exists,10 or if an existing contract is about to terminate,11 interference with the continuance or renewal of the contract is said not to be actionable. If a tenant's contract for electricity is about to expire, the act of the landlord in demanding that his tenant discontinue such service and enter into a contract with a competing public utility as a condition to renewing his lease, is not actionable.12 If no binding contract of employment exists between an employer and members of a labor union, it is said that no right of action exists by reason of the fact that such union requires its members in such employment to quit work.13
3 Walker v. Cronin, 107 Mass. 555.
4Lucke v. Trimmers' Assembly, 77 Md. 396, 39 Am. St. Rep. 421, 19 L. R. A. 408, 26 Atl. 606.
5 Baker v. Ins. Co. (Ky.), 64 S. W. 913; Trimble v. Ins. Co. (Ky.). 64 S. W. 915.
(Lancaster v. Hamburger, 70 O. S. 156, 71 N. E. 289 (where the party causing the discharge was a patron of the employer's street railway who made a justifiable complaint of employe's conduct, thereby causing his discharge); Raycroft v. Tayntor, 68 Vt. 219, 54 Am. St. Rep. 882, 33 L. R. A. 225, 35 Atl. 53 (where the party causing the discharge was in fact a fore-man with full power to discharge).
7Quinn v. Leathern , App. Cas.
495 [affirming. Leathern v. Craig, 2 Ir. Rep. (1899) 6671.
8 McGuire v. Gerstley, 204 U. S. 489, 51 L. ed. 581; Truax v. Bisbee Local, No. 380, Cooks' and Waiters' Union, 19 Ariz. 379, 171 Pac. 121; Hetzler v. Morrell, 82 Ia. 562, 48 N. W. 938; J. 1. Case Threshing Machine Co. v. Fisher, 144 Ia. 45, 122 N. W. 675; People's Land & Manufacturing Co. v. Beyer, 161 Wis. 349, L. R A. 1916B, 813, 154 X. W. 382.
9 Hetzler v. Morrell. 82 Ia. 502. 48 X. W. 938.
10Truax v. Bisbee Local, No. 380 Cooks' and Waiters' Union, 19 Ariz 379. 171 Pac. 121.
11 People's Land & Manufacturing Co v. Beyer, 161 Wis. 349, L. R. A. 1916B 813, 154 N. W. 382.