Rookes v Barnard

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Evershed,Lord Hodson,Lord Devlin,Lord Pearce
Judgment Date21 Jan 1964
Judgment citation (vLex)[1964] UKHL J0121-2

[1964] UKHL J0121-2

House of Lords

Lords Present:

Lord Reid

Lord Evershed

Lord Hodson

Lord Devlin

Lord Pearce

Rookes (A.P.)
Appellant.
and
Barnard and Ors.
Respondents.

Counsel for the Appellant:

The Hon. S.C. Silkin, Q.C. and Mr. A. De Piro

Counsel for the Respondents:

Mr. Gerald Gardiner, Q.C. and Mr. P. Colin Duncan. Q.C.

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Rookes (A.P.) against Barnard and others, that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2d, Wednesday the 3d, Thursday the 4th, Monday the 8th, Tuesday the 9th, Wednesday the 10th, Thursday the 11th, Monday the 15th and Tuesday the 16th, days of July last, as on Monday the 4th, Tuesday the 5th, Wednesday the 6th, Thursday the 7th and Monday the 11th, days of November last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Douglas Edwin Rookes, of 115 St. George's Square, S.W.l, in the City of Westminster, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 17th of April 1962, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, and that the Petitioner might have the relief prayed for in the Appeal, or such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the Case of Alfred James Barnard, Margaret Ellisdon (Executrix of Reginald John Silverthorne, deceased) and Trevor John Fistal, lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled. That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 17th day of April 1962, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Set Aside, and that the Judgment of the Honourable Mr. Justice Sachs, of the 19th day of May 1961, be, and the same is hereby, Set Aside so far as regards damages and Costs: And it is further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice with a Direction that a new trial be had on the question of damages only: And it is further Ordered, That the Costs already incurred before the Honourable Mr. Justice Sachs and the Costs of the new trial be disposed of by the Trial Judge after the further trial in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondents do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellant the Costs incurred by him in the Court of Appeal, and also the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal to this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is further Ordered, That the Costs incurred by the Appellant in the Court of Appeal, and also the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal to this House, be taxed in acordance with the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949, as amended by the Legal Aid Act 1960, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is also further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

1

CONSIDERATION OF REPORT FROM THE APPELLATE COMMITTEE

Lord Reid

My Lords,

2

I beg to move that the Report of the Appellate Committee be now considered.

3

Question Put:

4

That the Report of the Appellate Committee be now considered.

5

The contents have it.

Lord Reid

My Lords,

6

The Appellant was employed for many years by B.O.A.C. as a skilled draftsman in their drawing office at London Airport. He was a member of, a Trade Union, the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen (A.E.S.D.) to which all who were employed in that drawing office belonged. He and another man, Unwin, became dissatisfied with the conduct of the Union and resigned from it. The Union were very anxious to preserve the position that no non-member should be employed in that office and they took energetic steps to get these two men to rejoin. Unwin agreed to rejoin, but the Appellant refused. As a result of steps taken by the Union and its members, B.O.A.C. were induced first to suspend the Appellant and then to terminate his employment after giving him due notice. The Appellant has no remedy against B.O.A.C. They neither broke their contract with him nor committed any tort against him. In this action the Appellant seeks a remedy against two members and an official of the Union on the ground that they wrongfully induced B.O.A.C. to act as they did. The action was tried by Sachs J. with a jury, and the Appellant was awarded £7,500 damages. The Court of Appeal held that the Respondents had not committed any tort, and the first question in this appeal is whether the Respondents' actions were tortious. If that question is answered in the affirmative, a second question arises whether the Respondents are absolved from liability by the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906: it is admitted that the Respondents' acts were done in furtherance of a trade dispute.

7

Certain agreed questions were put to the jury and their answers are not challenged. The questions are not entirely free from ambiguity and, in order to understand them, we can look at the summing-up of the learned judge. But we cannot go beyond the questions so explained and the jury's answers. The questions are as follows:—

Questions

Answers

1. Was there a conspiracy to threaten strike action by the members of A.E.S.D. against B.O.A.C. to secure the withdrawal of the Plaintiff from the Design Office … … … … …

There was

If so

( a) Was Barnard a party?… … …

He was

( b) Was Silverthorne a party? … … …

He was

( c) Was Fistal a party?… … … …

He was

2. Was a threat to take strike action against B.O.A.C. to secure the withdrawal of the Plaintiff from the Design Office made by

( a) Barnard? … … … … …

It was

( b) Silverthorne?… … … …

It was

( c) Fistal? … … … … …

It was

3. Did threats of strike action by members of A.E.S.D. cause

( a) the suspension of the Plaintiff was his work at B.O.A.C.? … … … … …

They did

( b) The dismissal of the Plaintiff from B.O.A.C.

They did

4. ( a) What damages should be awarded to the Plaintiff if the threats of strike action caused the Plaintiff's dismissal … … …

£7,500

( b) What damages should be awarded to the Plaintiff if the threats of strike action caused the Plaintiff's suspension (but not his dismissal)? … … … … …

(Not answered)

8

Barnard was the chairman of the local branch of the Union and Fistal was a shop steward. Silverthorne was an official of the Union but not a member of it. There was negotiations which I need not deal with. The matter was brought to a head by a meeting of the members on 10th January, 1956, which resolved unanimously:

"We, the members of the A.E.S.D., inform B.O.A.C. that if the Non-Unionist Mr. D. E. Rookes is not removed from the Design Office by 4 p.m., Friday, 13th January, 1956, a withdrawal of labour of all A.E.S.D. Membership will take place".

9

If the Members had ceased work or come out on strike at that time they would have done so in breach of their contracts with B.O.A.C. An agreement had been made in 1949 between the Employers' and Employees' sides of the Draughtsmen's, Planners' and Tracers' Panel of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport which contained an undertaking that no lockout or strike would take place, and provided that any dispute should be dealt with as provided for in the constitution of the Joint Council. It is admitted that the provisions of that agreement had been made a term of all the contracts of employment of the men who took part in the meeting of 10th January, and that if they had withdrawn their labour on 13th January they would have been in breach of their contracts with B.O.A.C.

10

When this resolution was presented to B.O.A.C. they suspended the Appellant tand removed him from the Design Office, as the resolution required. There was considerable argument about the parts played by the three Respondents but we must take it from the jury's answers that the presentation of this resolution to B.O.A.C. was in pursuance of a conspiracy to which the three Respondents were parties, that it was a threat of strike action, and that this threat caused B.O.A.C. first to suspend and then to dismiss the Appellant. This was not a case of the Respondents merely informing B.O.A.C. that the men would strike if their terms were not accepted; no questions were put to the jury suggesting any defence based on that ground.

11

This case, therefore, raises the question whether it is a tort to conspire to threaten an employer that his men will break their contracts with him unless he dismisses the plaintiff, with the result that he is thereby induced to dismiss the plaintiff and cause him loss. The magnitude of the sum awarded by the jury shews that the Appellant had every prospect of retaining his employment with B.O.A.C. if the Respondents and other conspirators had not interfered: leaving the Trade Disputes Act out of account, if B.O.A.C. had been induced to dismiss the Appellant in breach of their contract with him then there is no doubt that the Respondents would have committed a tort and would have been liable in damages ( Lumley v. Gye 2 E. & B., 216). Equally, there is no doubt that men are entitled to threaten to strike if that involves no breach of their contracts with their employer, and they are not trying to induce their employer to break any contract with...

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