Cooper v Millea and Others (No 1)

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date11 October 1938
Date11 October 1938
Cooper v. Millea and Others.
JOHN COOPER
Plaintiff
and
PETER MILLEA, WILLIAM McBRIDE and JOHN DROHAN
Defendants.

Master and servant - Dismissal of railway employee - Dismissal caused bythreat to strike by other employees - Rival trade unions - Employees whowere members of one trade union refusing to work with employee who wasa member of another trade union - Threatened strike a breach of contractbetween railway company and their employees - Threat to strike not authorisedby trade union - Interference with employment by illegal means - Rightof action by dismissed employee against trade union officials for damages -Trade Disputes Act, 1906 (6 Ed. 7, c. 47), sect. 3 - Railways Act, 1924(No. 29 of 1924), sect. 55.

Appeal from the Circus Court.

The plaintiff was employed by the Great Southern RailwaysCompany as a porter at Waterford Station. His fellow-workerswere members of the National Union of Railwaymen (knownas the "N.U.R."). He formerly belonged to that unionbut had left it and had joined another union, the Federationof Road and Rail Workers, and had refused to rejointhe N.U.R. The local branch of the N.U.R. thereuponthreatened an immediate strike if the plaintiff was continuedin his employment. The Railway Company then offered theplaintiff a transfer to another town, Belturbet, and on hisrefusal to go there, they dismissed him with one week'swages in lieu of notice.

The meetings of the local branch of the N.U.R. at whichthe decision to strike was taken were not properly summoned;the sanction of the Executive Committee of theN.U.R. was not obtained, and an immediate strike wouldhave been a breach of the contract between the RailwayCompany and the workmen concerned.

The plaintiff brought this action against Peter Millea,the secretary, William McBride, the chairman, and JohnDrohan, the vice-chairman of the Waterford branch of theN.U.R., claiming damages against them.

In his civil bill the plaintiff stated that he had suffereddamage from the defendants wrongfully and maliciouslyinterfering with his legal rights and with the contractualrelationship of master and servant existing between himand his employers, the Great Southern Railways Company,and wrongfully and maliciously procuring, inducing andcausing the said Company to remove him to another placeof employment or to give him the choice between suchremoval and dismissal. He further averred that thedefendants had wrongfully and maliciously induced thesaid Company to terminate his employment. He also allegedthat he had suffered damages in that the defendants wrongfullyand maliciously conspired and combined among themselvesto inflict the wrongs already set out and that he hadlost his employment and the wages he would otherwisehave obtained in such employment, and had thereby suffereddamages.

The defence consisted of a traverse of the plaintiff's claimand a denial that there was any contract of service in existencebetween him and the said Company at the date of his allegeddismissal. The defendants further pleaded that if they, orany of them, did the acts complained of, such acts were notunlawful acts, and, even if done maliciously, were notactionable. The defendants also pleaded that they werethe secretary, chairman and vice-chairman of the Waterfordbranch of the National Union of Railwaymen and that ifthe acts complained of in the plaintiff's claim were done,they were done in furtherance of, or in contemplation of, atrade dispute, and they relied on the Trade Disputes Act, 1906.

The further facts are fully set out in the judgment ofGavan Duffy J.

Defendants, who were officials of the local branch of the National Unionof Railwaymen (known as the "N.U.R."), were employed with other menby the Great Southern Railways Co. at the town of W. They called on thelocal superintendent of the Company as a deputation authorised by thatbranch to threaten an immediate strike if the plaintiff, who was also anemployee of the Company, were allowed to work at W. They had, in fact,no authority to threaten an immediate strike, and a strike would have beena breach of their contracts with the Company. Plaintiff, who was formerlya member of the N.U.R., had left it and joined another trade union, andrefused to rejoin the N.U.R. As a result of the threat to strike the Companyoffered the plaintiff work at another town, which he refused to take, and hewas dismissed by the Company in consequence.

The Court being of opinion that the defendants' purpose was to drive theplaintiff out of the service of the Company at W., which meant securing hisremoval or dismissal, but that their motive was not malicious, held that theaction taken by the defendants was unlawful at common law, and thatsect. 3 of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, afforded them no defence and thatthe plaintiff had a cause of action for intentional interference with his employmentby illegal means and was entitled to damages for the loss sustainedby him.

Dictum of Lord Dunedin in Sorrell v. Smith, [1925] A. C. at p. 730. applied.

Cur. adv. vult.

Gavan Duffy J.:—

The plaintiff, John Cooper, is a widower, aged 54; hishome at all material times was and is at Waterford; hejoined the railway service in 1916 as a porter and under theRailways Act (No. 29 of 1924), became a servant of theGreat Southern Railways; for a few years he was a memberof the National Union of Railwaymen (the "N.U.R.") andthen for some years a member of no Union, until 1934, when,upon the formation of a new trade union, the Federationof Road and Rail Workers, registered under trade union law,he became a pioneer for that Union in Waterford, where abranch was established. In March, 1935, that Uniondeclared a strike on the railway and the plaintiff went outon strike; the strike collapsed after a week, and most,but not all, of the men on strike were taken back by theRailway Company, the plaintiff being assigned to duty atthe North Wall, Dublin. The Federation continued tofunction as a trade union, but the Waterford branch ceasedto exist; the plaintiff continued to be a member of thatUnion. At the North Wall he was...

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12 cases
  • Riordan v Butler and Others
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 1 March 1940
    ...was entitled to claim damages. Held further that there was a "trade dispute" but this did not affect the result. Cooper v. Millea, [1938] I. R. 749, followed; White v. RileyELR[1921] 1 Ch. O'Byrne J.: At the outset of my judgment I think it well that I should refer to the parties to the act......
  • Deighan v Same Defendants
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 17 December 1944
    ...procedure prescribed by the above Scheme should be followed. The plaintiffs, accordingly, were entitled to succeed. Cooper v. Millea, [1938] I. R. 749, applied. Cur. adv. vult. Maguire P.:— The plaintiff, McLoughlin, was employed first as a Lamp Boy by the defendant Company. On the 4th Febr......
  • Taylor v Smyth
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1991
    ...UNREP HIGH 10.3.1972 ROOKES V BARNARD 1964 1 AER 367 CENTRAL CANADA POTASH CO LTD V GOVERNMENT OF SASKATCHEWAN 88 DLR 609 COOPER V MILLEA 1938 IR 749 RIORDAN V BUTLER 1940 IR 347 WARD V LEWIS & ORS 1955 1 AER 55 O'MAHONY V GAFFNEY 1986 IR 36 GREEN V ROZEN & ORS 1955 2 AER 797 LONRHO LTD ......
  • Rookes v Barnard
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal
    • 17 April 1962
    ...withdraw labour in breach of contract — then those acts were tortious and illegal". Later in the judgment atpage 347 the Irish case of Cooper v. Millea (1938 Irish Reports page 749), which was followed by Riordan v. Butler (1940 Irish Reports page 347), was cited, and it would seem that Mr.......
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