Lecture Three-- Views from Abroad

In the previous lecture I was trying to maintain that a person who deliberately causes economic harm to another should be liable only if he uses wrongful means to effect his object. Persuading your target's contractor to break his contract with the target constitutes wrongful means, the contractor's conduct being the means to the end, but it is not the case, contrary to the present law, that you are liable for preventing your target's contractor from performing, whether or not that constitutes a 'breach' for which he could be sued by the target, unless, of course, you yourself use wrongful means in order to prevent him.

Let us now go walkabout and see how other systems compare with ours as regards the general principle of liability for economic harm deliberately caused, and whether they treat interference with contract as a special case. We can take a cursory look at Germany, France and the United States.

Germany is like England in one respect anyway: in neither system do you generally have to pay for the economic harm you cause by mere negligence to a person with whom you have no contract. Absolute rights, including intangible as well as tangible property rights, are protected against negligence, but not mere personal rights such as one has against a contractor, much less one's general economic well-being or wealth as a whole. There is no notion of all rights being equally protected against invasion, as English courts sometimes seem to suggest.1

The BGB does indeed empower the courts to create 'other rights' and protect them against merely unreasonable conduct, but contract rights are rigorously excluded. The most famous

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1
Compare Ralph Gibson LJ in F v. Wirral BC [ 1991] 2 All ER 648, 677 where he unembarrassedly analogises between the rights of a parent and the rights of a contractor.

-45-

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