Lumley v Gye [1853] 2 E & B 216

Tort - Wrongdoing - cause of action against third party


Miss Wagner was an opera singer at Lumley’s theatre on a three month contract. Gye and Wagner made an agreement that Wagner would break her contract and refuse to sing at Lumley’s theatre. Wagner agreed to sing at Gye’s theatre only.


Whether Lumley had a cause of action against a third party for wrongdoing and whether he was entitled to claim damages.


Wagner and Gye were joint wrongdoers as they conspired together, causing loss. Where a third party interferes, either intentionally and or maliciously with the performance of the contract, they are liable for any loss (in the form of damages) that arises from the interference, either individually or jointly. Any persuasion used to influence a contracting party to breach their contractual obligations could go towards proving the third party demonstrated an intention to interfere and cause loss. The court held, there were two propositions that determined whether a third party could be liable for an actionable tort. Either, the person whose persuasions to break the contract was liable, or that the action of seducing a person from a contract, or persuading a person who has contracted for service was found liable for damages for their interference. Thus, it was deemed that the application was wide enough to encompass the current case where it would apply to an opera singer. In the event that a contract is broken and does result in a loss of sorts, if there was no knowledge of the breach by a third party and or no intention to cause loss, they will not be liable to pay damages. Lumley did have a cause of action and Gye (the third party) was required to pay damages.