Mitchell v. Aldrich, No. 35

Docket NºNo. 35
Citation122 Vt. 19, 163 A.2d 833
Case DateSeptember 06, 1960
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

Page 833

163 A.2d 833
122 Vt. 19
Everett C. MITCHELL, Philip Albee
v.
Carl J. ALDRICH, Alson I. Drew, Addison County Trust Co., Trustee.
No. 35.
Supreme Court of Vermont.
Sept. 6, 1960.

Page 834

[122 Vt. 20] Hanford G. Davis, Brandon, for plaintiffs.

Wayne C. Bosworth, Middlebury, for Aldrich.

Lee E. Emerson, Barton, for Drew.

Before [122 Vt. 19] HOLDEN, SHANGRAW, and SMITH, JJ., and DIVOLL and MORRISON, Superior Judges.

[122 Vt. 20] HOLDEN, Justice.

The plaintiffs seek recovery for wrongful interference with contract relations. They claim the defendants deprived them of [122 Vt. 21] an advantageous agreement to purchase a herd of dairy cattle. The trial court withheld the case from the jury by directing a verdict of no liability. The plaintiffs appeal from the judgment for the defendants that was entered on this ruling.

There was some conflict in the testimony given at the trial. Resolving this conflict in favor of the claim, as we are required from the error assigned, this is the plaintiffs' version of the controversy.

Prior to the sale of the cattle in question, the seller, William Comette, had procured several loans from the Chittenden Trust Company. His obligations were secured by mortgages on real and personal property. The chattel mortgage included

Page 835

farm machinery and the dairy herd, consisting of 102 cows. In August 1947 Comette decided to sell his entire herd and to this end obtained general permission from the mortgagee. He then called the plaintiff Mitchell, informed him of his intention to sell and sought to interest Mitchell in the purchase. The following morning, Mitchell and his associate, the plaintiff Albie, visited the Comette farm and inspected the cattle. After looking over the cattle, the plaintiffs made an offer to purchase the herd for $7,800. This offer was accepted by Comette. The terms of the sale provided for the payment of $100 at that time, $900 to be paid the following day and the balance of the purchase price became due on the removal of the cattle from Comette's barn, in no event later than ten days hence. Comette informed the plaintiffs of the mortgage lien of the Chittenden Trust Company and it was understood by the buyers that approval of the bank was necessary to complete the transaction. Upon the payment of the $100, a written memorandum of the agreement was signed by Comette which set forth the terms of the sale and specified the sale was subject to the approval of the bank.

Comette communicated with his mortgagee on the same day and was advised by the bank that a Mr. Aldrich would call at his farm. The bank had made a prior arrangement with Aldrich to appraise the cattle which Comette sought to sell. It appeared that the Chittenden Trust Company had from time to time called upon Aldrich to make such appraisals. Aldrich was not in the employ of the bank and received no compensation for making the valuations. After Comette's telephone message on August 15, the bank requested Aldrich to make his appraisal right away.

[122 Vt. 22] The bank's loan officer, responsible for servicing the Comette obligations, was called as a witness for the defendant Aldrich and gave this testimony concerning Aldrich's authority:

'A. We asked Mr. Aldrich to make an appraisal of the cattle as to determine the value of them.

'Q. And did you ask him to do anything whatsoever in regard to the sale of them? A. Other than if he wanted to buy them he had that privilege.

'Q. And did you ask him, did you say anything to him in regard to interesting other people in regard to it? A. No. sir.'

After telephoning the bank, Comette informed the plaintiffs that Aldrich had been sent to look at the cows. The plaintiffs went to Aldrich and informed him of their agreement to purchase the Comette cattle. Aldrich disclaimed any interest in the property but added that he would fulfill an appointment with Drew to look at the cattle.

When Aldrich and Drew arrived at the Comette farm, Comette informed them of his undertaking with the plaintiffs, and that he had received $100 in part payment of the price agreed upon. Aldrich replied by saying the plaintiff Mitchell was a 'tough fellow to do business with and that I (Comette) probably would never get my money after the cows left the barn'. Aldrich went on to say that it would be impossible for Mitchell to get the bank's approval of his purchase. Drew and Aldrich then offered Comette $8,100 for the herd and Aldrich stated there would be no doubt of the bank's approval of that offer. Comette's testimony continued to the effect that he relied on Aldrich's statements for he believed him to be a representative of the bank.

The sale to Drew was completed with the approval of the mortgagee. Drew derived a net profit from the resale of the cattle. Aldrich received compensation from Drew for assistance in getting the cattle ready for auction.

Except for special justification, the law has long recognized liability against

Page 836

one who intentionally intrudes to disrupt an existing contract relation. Lumley v. Gye, (1853) 2 E & B 216, 118 Eng.Rep. 749, 754; Angle v. Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha [122 Vt. 23] Railway Co., 151 U.S. 1, 14 S.Ct. 240, 38 L.Ed. 55, 62; Beekman v. Marsters, 195 Mass. 205, 80 N.E. 817, 819, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 201; Campbell v. Gates, 236 N.Y. 457, 141 N.E. 914, 915; Restatement, Torts § 766; Pollock, The Law of Torts, 13th ed., p. 340; Street, Foundations of Legal Liability, p. 343; Carpenter, Interference with Contract Relations, 41 Harv.L.R. 728. The interest protected is the right of the individual to security in his business relations. He has a right to preserve the undertakings of persons with whom he has commercial dealings. Ran W Hat Shop, Inc. v. Sculley, 98 Conn. 1, 118 A. 55, 29 A.L.R. 551, 558; Berry v. Donovan, 188...

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45 practice notes
  • Marcoux-Norton v. Kmart Corp., Civ. A. No. 5:91-CV-308.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • May 26, 1993
    ...The tort of intentional interference with contractual relations was recognized by the Vermont Supreme Court in Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 163 A.2d 833 (1960). In Mitchell, the Court emphasized that the tort is not restricted to interference with existing contracts, but is also ava......
  • Leigh Furniture and Carpet Co. v. Isom, No. 17264
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1982
    ...457, 465, 205 N.W. 630, 633 (1925); Baker v. Dennis Brown Realty, Inc., 121 N.H. 640, 433 A.2d 1271, 1274 (1981); Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 24, 163 A.2d 833, 836-37 (1960); Calbom v. Knudtzon, 65 Wash.2d 157, 162-63, 396 P.2d 148, 151-52 (1964). This approach is also adopted by F. Ha......
  • Kneebinding, Inc. v. Howell, No. 17-239
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 5, 2018
    ...well established that "one who intentionally intrudes to disrupt an existing contract relation" may be liable in tort. Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 163 A.2d 833, 835-36 (1960). We have explained:One who intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract (exce......
  • Easaw v. Newport, Civil Action No. 17-00028 (BAH).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • May 12, 2017
    ...relation." even though "the contract is terminable at will or unenforceable against the promisor ...." (quoting Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 23, 163 A.2d 833 (1960) ); Dunn, McCormack & MacPherson v. Connolly, 281 Va. 553, 559, 708 S.E.2d 867 (2011) ("[W]hen a contract is terminable......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Marcoux-Norton v. Kmart Corp., Civ. A. No. 5:91-CV-308.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • May 26, 1993
    ...The tort of intentional interference with contractual relations was recognized by the Vermont Supreme Court in Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 163 A.2d 833 (1960). In Mitchell, the Court emphasized that the tort is not restricted to interference with existing contracts, but is also ava......
  • Leigh Furniture and Carpet Co. v. Isom, No. 17264
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1982
    ...457, 465, 205 N.W. 630, 633 (1925); Baker v. Dennis Brown Realty, Inc., 121 N.H. 640, 433 A.2d 1271, 1274 (1981); Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 24, 163 A.2d 833, 836-37 (1960); Calbom v. Knudtzon, 65 Wash.2d 157, 162-63, 396 P.2d 148, 151-52 (1964). This approach is also adopted by F. Ha......
  • Kneebinding, Inc. v. Howell, No. 17-239
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 5, 2018
    ...well established that "one who intentionally intrudes to disrupt an existing contract relation" may be liable in tort. Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 163 A.2d 833, 835-36 (1960). We have explained:One who intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract (exce......
  • Easaw v. Newport, Civil Action No. 17-00028 (BAH).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • May 12, 2017
    ...relation." even though "the contract is terminable at will or unenforceable against the promisor ...." (quoting Mitchell v. Aldrich, 122 Vt. 19, 22, 23, 163 A.2d 833 (1960) ); Dunn, McCormack & MacPherson v. Connolly, 281 Va. 553, 559, 708 S.E.2d 867 (2011) ("[W]hen a contract is terminable......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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