Keeble v Hickeringill

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Keeble v Hickeringill (1707)
John Holt, Queen's Bench
244143Keeble v Hickeringill1707John Holt, Queen's Bench
Keeble v. Hickeringill
Queen's Bench
Date decided: 1707
Full case name: Keeble v. Hickeringill
Citations: 11 East 574, 103 Eng. Rep. 1127
Judges sitting: Holt, C.J.
Cases cited: 11 H. 4, 47; 29 E. 3, 18; Dawney v. Dee, 2 Cro. 604
Legislation cited:
Case history
Prior actions: Plaintiff won £20 at trial
Subsequent actions:

KEEBLE v HICKERINGILL 11 East 574 (1707)

Action upon the case. Plaintiff declares that he was, 8th November in the second year of the Queen, lawfully possessed of a close of land called Minott's Meadow, containing a decoy pond, to which divers waterfowl used to resort and come: and the plaintiff has at his own costs and charges prepared and procured divers decoy ducks, nets, machines and other engines for the decoying and taking of the wildfowl, and enjoyed the benefit in taking them: the defendant, knowing which and intending to damnify the plaintiff in his vivary, and to fright and drive away the wildfowl used to resort thither, and deprive him of his profit, did, on the 8th of November, resort to the head of the said pond and vivary, and did discharge six guns laden with gunpowder, and with the noise and stink of the gunpowder did drive away the wildfowl then being in the pond: and on the 11th and 12th days of November the defendant, with design to damnify the plaintiff, and fright away the wildfowl, did place himself with a gun near the vivary, and there did discharge the said gun several times that was then charged with the gunpowder against the said decoy pond, whereby the wildfowl were frighted away, and did forsake the said pond. Upon not guilty pleaded, a verdict was found for the plaintiff and 20£ damages.


I am of opinion that this action doth lie. It seems to be new in this instance, but is not new in the reason or principle of it. For, 1st, this using or making a decoy is lawful. 2dly, this employment of his ground to that use is profitable to the plaintiff, as is the skill and management of that employment. As to the first, every man hath a property may employ it for his pleasure and profit, as for alluring and procuring decoy ducks to come to his pond. To learn the trade of seducing other ducks to come there in order to be taken is not prohibited either by the law of the land or the moral law; but it is lawful to use art to seduce them, to catch them, and destroy them for the use of mankind, as to kill and destroy wildfowl or tame cattle. Then when a man useth his art or his skill to take them, to sell and dispose of for his profit; this is his trade, and he that hinders another in his trade or livelihood is liable to an action for so hindering him[.]

[W]here a violent or malicious act is done to a man's occupation profession or way of getting a livelihood, there an action lies in all cases. But if a man doth him damage by using the same employment; as if Mr Hickeringill had set up another decoy on his own ground near the plaintiff's, and that had spoiled the custom of the plaintiff, no action would lie, because he had as much liberty to make and use a decoy as the plaintiff. This is like the case of 11 Hen. IV p. 47. One schoolmaster sets up a new school to the damage of an ancient school, and thereby the scholars are allured from the old school to come to his new. (The action there was held not to lie.) But suppose Mr. Hickeringill should lie in the way with his guns and frighten the boys from going to school and their parents would not let them go thither sure that schoolmaster might have an action for the loss of his scholars. 29 Edw IIl p 18. A man hath a market, to which he hath toll for horses sold: a man is bringing his horse to market to sell: a stranger hinders and obstructs him from going thither to the market: an action lies because it imports damage. Action upon the case lies against one that shall by threats frighten away his tenants at will. 9 Hen. VII pp. 7-8, 21 Hen. VI p. 31, 14 Edw. IV p. 7.

And when we do know that of long time in the kingdom these artificial contrivances of decoy ponds and decoy ducks have been used for enticing into those ponds wildfowl, in order to be taken for the profit of the owner of the pond, who is at the expense of servants, engines, and other management, whereby the markets of the nation may be furnished; there is great reason to give encouragement thereunto; that the people who are so instrumental by their skill and industry so to furnish the markets should reap the benefit and have their action. But, in short, that which is the true reason is that this action is not brought to recover damage for the loss of the fowl, but for the disturbance; as 2 Cro. 604, Dawney v Dee. So is the usual and common way of declaring.

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