The Cambridge Law Journal

Articles

The Tort of Conspiracy and Civil Secondary Liability

Philip Sales*

The litigation in Metall und Rohstoff A.G. v. Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. appeared to herald a much-needed review by the House of Lords of the torts of conspiracy to injure by lawful and unlawful means. Since that will not now take place, the law will for the present remain as the Court of Appeal in Metall und Rohstoff has interpreted the decision of the House of Lords in Lonrho Ltd v. Shell Petroleum Co. Ltd. (No. 2). The purpose of this article is to argue that there is an important division in principle between the tort of conspiracy to injure another by lawful means and the tort of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means, and that the rules governing liability for the former tort should be different from, and more limited than, the rules governing liability for the latter tort. Thus recent authority is questioned on the basis that the law in this area was properly set out in the older cases, but for reasons which lie buried and are not always expressly articulated in them. It will be the thrust of this article that the narrow view of the scope of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means which appears in the speech of Lord Diplock in Lonrho v. Shell (No. 2), as interpreted after full argument in the Court of Appeal in Metall und Rohstoff, is mistaken, and that the House of Lords (when eventually it has the opportunity to review these two decisions) should revive the distinction which existed between conspiracy to injure by lawful means and conspiracy to injure by unlawful means prior to 1982.

Footnotes

* Barrister, London. I am grateful to Patrick Elias Q.C., who commented on an earlier draft of this article.