Thacker Coal & Coke Co v. Burke

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtBRANNON, J
Citation53 S.E. 161,59 W. Va. 253
PartiesTHACKER COAL & COKE CO. v. BURKE et al.
Decision Date06 March 1906

53 S.E. 161
(59 W. Va. 253)

THACKER COAL & COKE CO.
v.
BURKE et al.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

March 6, 1906.


1. Master and Servant—Enticing Servant.

One who maliciously entices a servant in actual service of a master to desert and quit his service is liable to action therefor.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see vol. 34, Cent. Dig. Master and Servant, § 1283.]

2. Same—Liabilities.

If one wantonly and maliciously, whether for his own benefit or not, induces a person to violate his contract with a third person, to the injury of that third person, it is actionable.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see vol. 34, Cent. Dig. Master and Servant, § 1283.]

3. Same.

Persons who conspire to induce others to break a valid contract between other persons are liable to action therefor.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see vol. 10, Cent. Dig. Conspiracy, § 9; vol. 34, Cent. Dig. Master and Servant, § 1283.]

4. Same.

The act found in Code 1899, § 14, appendix, p. 1053, does not authorize any individual, or number of individuals, to malicious-

[53 S.E. 162]

ly entice servants to desert service in which they are engaged, or to prevent them from engaging in such service under a contract for such service.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see vol. 34, Cent. Dig. Master and Servant, § 1283.]

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Error to Circuit Court, Mingo County.

Action by the Thacker Coal & Coke Company against Charles Burke and others. From a judgment sustaining a demurrer to the declaration, plaintiff appeals. Reversed.

Rucker, Anderson & Hughes and Sheppard & Goodykoontz, for plaintiff in error.

J. H. Gaines, J. L. Stafford, and Douglass W. Brown, for defendants in error.

BRANNON, J. The Thacker Coal & Coke Company filed a declaration in trespass on the case in the circuit court of Mingo county against Charles Burke and five others for damage for enticing servants from the plaintiff's service, which declaration upon demurrer was dismissed, and the company sued out a writ of error.

Certain legal principles control the case. In Transportation Co. v. Oil Co., 50 W. Va. 611, 40 S. E. 591, 56 L. R. A. 804, 88 Am. St. Rep. 895, we find it stated, on authority there given, that "if one wantonly and maliciously, whether for his own benefit or not, induces a person to violate his contract with a third person to the injury of that third person, it is actionable." We find that holding confirmed in Angle v. Chicago Railway, 151 U. S. 1, 14 Sup. Ct. 240, 38 L. Ed. 55, in the language following: "If one maliciously interferes in a contract between two parties, and induces one of them to break that contract, to the injury of the other, the party injured can sustain an action against the wrongdoer. When a man does an act which in law and fact is a wrongful act, and injury to another results from it as a natural and probable consequence, an action on the case will lie." If additional authority were needed for such a proposition of common sense and justice, see the case decided by the highest English tribunal in 1901, Quinn v. Leathern, App. Cases 1901, 495. What I have already said refers to contracts in general. As to the particular contract between master and servant, the law is, if possible, yet more decided. The common law says that one who causes a breach of that contract is liable to damages. It has been said by some that action in such case lies only by reason of the act of Parliament in the reign of Edward III, A. D. 1350, making the act of enticement of a servant from his employer wrongful. If so, we might hesitate in saying that it is actionable in West Virginia; but I assert, believing that I am supported by ample authority, that action is given in such case by the common law. So the text writers and courts treat it. In Comyns' Digest, title "Action on the Case, " A, p. 278, the common-law rule is thus stated: ''In all cases where a man has a temporal loss, or damage by the wrong of another, he may have an action upon the case to be repaired in damages." The Supreme Court of the United States in Angle v. Chicago Railway, cited, stated the rule thus: "Wherever a man does an act which in law and in fact Is a wrongful act, and such an act as may, as a natural and probable consequence of it, produce injury to another, and which in the particular case does produce an injury, an action on the case will lie." It is generally treated as a common-law cause of action. The general principle applicable to contracts in general would give action against a third party for wrongfully causing the breach of contract between master and servant; but as to this particular contract the law has been long settled.

I cite the following authorities: "It is well settled that any person who knowingly entices away the servant" of another, and thereby induces him to violate his contract with his master, or who thereby deprives the master of the services of one then actually in his service, whether under a contract to serve or not, is liable to the master for his actual loss therefrom. But in this action it is necessary to prove not only that the person employed was in the service of the plaintiff, but also that the defendant, knowing the fact, wrongfully Induced him to leave it. The intent of the defendant, and the natural or actual effect of its execution, is the gist of the action, and unless the declaration discloses that the act was done Intentionally or willfully, and that it actually did, or was calculated to, cause damage to the plaintiff, and that it was done without right or justifiable cause, no recovery can be had. Malice is Inferred from the wrongful character of the act, and the dec-claration or complaint must disclose such facts as support the inference. If a contract to serve is established, actual service under the contract need not be shown. It is enough to show that the defendant, with notice of the servant's contract obligation to the plaintiff, has persuaded him not to enter into the plaintiff's service under it." Wood, Master and Servant, §§ 230, 231. "The idea of interference with contract relations as a specific tort is of recent origin. The materials from which the generalization was worked out are found in several lines of precedents. From an early day it has been established that a master may maintain an action against one who entices away his servant or harbors and detains him with knowledge of his former contract." 16 Am. & Eng. Ency. L. (2d Ed.) 1109. "Certainly since the statute of laborers the common law has recognized the right of a master to recover for the actual damage he may have suffered by the wrongful interference by a third person with his relationship to his servant, by personal injury to the servant, or otherwise depriving the master, in whole or in part, of

[53 S.E. 163]

his service. * * * Actions for enticing servants from their employer, and for knowingly harboring servants who had previously left their employer, arose after the first statute of laborers. They survive its repeal, and occur in modern practice. Knowingly enticing from the service of another one who is employed under a contract not fully executed is an actionable...

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25 practice notes
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...S.E.2d 578, 591-92 (1998) (quoting Syl. pt. 2, Torbett, 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166). Finally, in Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 254, 53 S.E. 161, 162 (1906), we permitted an injured party to recover damages for tortious interference with a contractual relationship: &......
  • Kemp v. Div. No. 241, Amalgamated Gamated Ass'n of Street & Elec. Ry. Employés of America
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • October 2, 1912
    ...supra; Lucke v. Clothing Cutters, 77 Md. 396, 26 Atl. 505,19 L. R. A. 408, 39 Am. St. Rep. 421;Thatcher C. & C. Co. v. Burke, 59 W. Va. 253, 53 S. E. 161,5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1091,8 Ann. Cas. 885;Beck v. Teamsters' Union, 118 Mich. 497, 77 N. W. 13,42 L. R. A. 407, 74 Am. St. Rep. 421;Hol......
  • Voorhees v. Guyan Machinery Co., No. 21693
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 24, 1994
    ...the act, and the declaration or complaint must disclose such facts as support the inference." Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 53 S.E. 161 4. If anything has occurred to render further association between the parties offensive or degrading to the employee, an offer o......
  • C.W. Development, Inc. v. Structures, Inc. of West Virginia, No. 19764
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1991
    ...are Torbett v. Wheeling Dollar Sav. & Trust Co., 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166 (1983) and Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 53 S.E. 161 (1906). See Bryan v. Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co., 178 W.Va. 773, 364 Page 44 [185 W.Va. 465] S.E.2d 786 (1987) (holding no torti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...S.E.2d 578, 591-92 (1998) (quoting Syl. pt. 2, Torbett, 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166). Finally, in Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 254, 53 S.E. 161, 162 (1906), we permitted an injured party to recover damages for tortious interference with a contractual relationship: &......
  • Kemp v. Div. No. 241, Amalgamated Gamated Ass'n of Street & Elec. Ry. Employés of America
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • October 2, 1912
    ...supra; Lucke v. Clothing Cutters, 77 Md. 396, 26 Atl. 505,19 L. R. A. 408, 39 Am. St. Rep. 421;Thatcher C. & C. Co. v. Burke, 59 W. Va. 253, 53 S. E. 161,5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1091,8 Ann. Cas. 885;Beck v. Teamsters' Union, 118 Mich. 497, 77 N. W. 13,42 L. R. A. 407, 74 Am. St. Rep. 421;Hol......
  • Voorhees v. Guyan Machinery Co., No. 21693
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 24, 1994
    ...the act, and the declaration or complaint must disclose such facts as support the inference." Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 53 S.E. 161 4. If anything has occurred to render further association between the parties offensive or degrading to the employee, an offer o......
  • C.W. Development, Inc. v. Structures, Inc. of West Virginia, No. 19764
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1991
    ...are Torbett v. Wheeling Dollar Sav. & Trust Co., 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166 (1983) and Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 53 S.E. 161 (1906). See Bryan v. Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co., 178 W.Va. 773, 364 Page 44 [185 W.Va. 465] S.E.2d 786 (1987) (holding no torti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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