Lecture Two-- Developments at Home

The centenary of Allen v. Flood falls just before Christmas 1997, and I shall be celebrating it, apparently on my own.1 That decision established it as law in England, that one--and one here means one and not two--one is free to cause deliberate economic harm to another--whatever one's motive--provided that the means one employs are not unlawful in themselves. It was a very English case.2 The Sam Weller was under repair at the Regent Dock at Millwall. This was not Sam Weller's first appearance in court, for the real Sam Weller, as one is tempted to call him, had figured before Stareleigh J in Bardell v. Pickwick.3 In a marvellously Dickensian passage, Sam enters the witness box and gives his full name. '"Do you spell it with a V or a W?" asked the judge. "That depends on the taste and fancy of the speller, my lord," replied Sam, "I never had occasion to spell it more than once or twice in my life, but I spells it with a V." Here a voice in the gallery exclaimed, "Quite right too, Samivel, quite right. Put it down a we, my lord, put it down a we.""Who is that, who dares to address the court?" said the little judge...'4

____________________
1
It is deplored by Salmond & Heuston, Law of Torts346 ( 21st edn. 1996): 'The requirement of unlawful means, which stems from the basic decision in Allen v. Flood, imposes an arbitrary and illogical limit on the development of a rational general principle to explain this part of the law.' See also J. Finnis, "Intention in Tort Law" in Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law 229, 237ff. ( D. Owen ed., 1995).
2
Not least because of the limpness of the ductile management (doubtless justified on economic grounds--compare BOAC in Rookes, note 12 below)--and the fractious irritability of the workers in Allen whipping up a borderline dispute (doubtless equally justified on economic grounds).
3
C. Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club ch. 34, 483 (Oxford Illustrated Dickens, 1948). The passage also contains the famous phrase 'You must not tell us what the soldier, or any other man, said, sir,' interposed the judge, 'it's not evidence. [It is now.] Also of current interest is the observation about Widow Bardell's attorneys, Dodson and Fogg: 'what a wery gen'rous thing it was o' them to have taken up the case on spec, and to charge nothing at all for costs, unless they got 'em out of Mr. Pickwick' (at 485).
4
'Mr. Justice Stareleigh's temper bordered on the irritable, and brooked not contradiction.' Id. at 467.

-21-

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