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NELSON C. VESTAL, d/b/a NELSON C. VESTAL INSURANCE AGENCY, MRS. NELSON C. VESTAL AND NELSON C. VESTAL, JR. v. WILLIAM HAROLD ODEN

SEPTEMBER 24, 1986

NELSON C. VESTAL, d/b/a NELSON C. VESTAL INSURANCE AGENCY, MRS. NELSON C. VESTAL AND NELSON C. VESTAL, JR.
v.
WILLIAM HAROLD ODEN



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., ROBERTSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

GRIFFIN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The appellee brought suit against Nelson C. Vestal,

d/b/a Nelson C. Vestal Insurance Agency; two of his employees, his wife, Mrs. Vestal, and his son, Nelson C. Vestal, Jr.; Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company; and the United of Omaha Insurance Company, alleging damages for the breach of an employment contract. The companies, hereinafter called "Mutual" were dismissed on a motion for summary judgment, and the case proceeded to trial against the Vestals.

 This is an appeal by the Vestals from a judgment against them in the amount of $150,000.00, entered pursuant to a jury verdict. There is no cross-appeal on the sustaining of the summary judgment; therefore, we are called upon to address the issue as to whether or not there was a tortious interference with the employment contract by the Vestals.

 The appellee entered into his employment contracts with Mutual on February 2, 1968 as an insurance agent, with his territory described as being that of Vestal and Vernon Agency (Vernon was originally a partner in the Agency but no longer associated at the time of this suit). The contract was signed on behalf or Mutual by Vernon, with subsequent amendments signed on behalf of the Companies by Vestal, the remaining partner. The appellee was fired by Vestal.

 This appeal, for all practical purposes, was decided adversely to the appellee on November 13, 1985, when Judge Robertson wrote an opinion in Shaw v. Burchfield, 481 So.2d 247 (Miss. 1985). The facts there are basically the same as here, except to say that the power vested in the Vestal Agency by Mutual was greater than that vested in the individual defendant employees of Southern Farm Bureau Company in Shaw v. Burchfield, supra. Here, as there, the contracts of employment provide that either party could terminate the contract by written notice. No particular period of time was required. In Shaw v. Burchfield, supra, in passing upon the tortious interference question, we said:

 As a separate theory of recovery, Shaw has charged that the individual Defendants tortiously interfered with the contracts existing between him and the Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. This claim, as with the others, was dismissed in the Circuit Court via summary judgment.

 Without doubt, our law recognizes, on

 behalf of one whose contractural relationship has been tortiously interfered with, a right of recovery from the interferor. Protective Service Life Insurance Co. v. Carter, 445 So.2d 215, 219 (Miss. 1983). One who intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract between another and a third person by inducing or otherwise causing the third person not to perform the contract, is subject to liability to the other for pecuniary loss resulting to the other from the failure of the third person to perform the contract. Restatement (Second) of Torts 766 (1979); see Cranford v. Shelton, 378 So.2d 652, 655 (Miss. 1980); Southwest Drug Co. v. Howard Brothers Pharmacy of Jackson, Inc., 320 So.2d 776, 778 (Miss. 1975); Irby v. Citizen National Bank of Meridian, 239 Miss. 64, 67, 121 So.2d 118, 119 (1960); Bailey v. Richards, 236 Miss. 523, 536-37, 111 So.2d 402, 407 (1959). On the other hand, one occupying a position of responsibility on behalf of another is privileged, within the scope of that responsibility and absent bad faith, to interfere with his principal's contractual relationship with a third person. Restatement (Second) of Torts 770 comment b, illustration 3 (1979).

 We note that numerous cases from other states recognize that there is no right of recovery on the part of a discharged employee against one said to have interfered with a contract terminable at will. Rockwell v. Automatic Timing Co., 559 F.2d 460 (7th Cir. 1977); Hansen v. Barrett, 183 F. Supp. 831, 833 (D. Minn. 1960); Noah v. L. Daitch & Co., 22 Misc.2d 649, 192 N.Y.S.2d 380, 386 (1959); Luisoni v. Barth, 2 Misc.2d 315, 137 N.Y.S.2d 169, 172 (1954); Davis v. Alwac International, Inc., 369 S.W.2d 797, 802 (Tex. 1963); Kingsbery v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 315 S.W.2d 561, 576 (Tex. 1958). These cases procede on the premise that, where there has been no breach of contract, conceptualizing a tortious interference fails as a matter of elementary legal logic.

 The individual Defendants here were officers and agents of the various Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. The record establishes without contradiction that they had responsibilities with respect to Shaw's employment with those companies and the three contracts in issue. Where a corporation has a contract with another, and where an individual who is an agent of the corporation has responsibilities with respect to the contract, any actions taken in good faith within the scope of those responsibilities are privileged and thus not actionable. Irby v. Citizens National Bank of Meridian, 239 Miss. 64, 121 So.2d 118, 119 (1960); Wesley v. Native Lumber Co., 97 Miss. 814, 53 So. 346, 347 (1910); Martin v. Texaco, Inc., 304 F. Supp. 498, 502 (S.D. Miss. 1969). There being no showing of bad faith in the record sufficient to avoid summary judgment, and there otherwise being no genuine issue of material fact, we hold that the trial judge correctly determined the Defendants entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 481 So.2d at 254-55.

 We have searched the record and are unable to find any evidence that would dispute the fact that Vestal, as the general agent for Mutual over the entire state of Mississippi, held the unquestioned power to terminate the contracts in question.

 The evidence reflects that Vestal was the general agent for Mutual in the state of Mississippi, and had been since 1951. Due to his failing health, many of his duties had been delegated to his wife and son. The appellee signed his contract with the Company by signing through the agency, appellants, on February 2, 1968. He was terminated for participating in uncondoned competition with Mutual by selling other insurance policies comparable to those offered by Mutual. Appellee's conduct that seemed to irritate the ...


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