Machinery Hauling v. Steel of W. Va.

384 S.E.2d 139



Future expectancy is not a legal right on which the plaintiff can anchor a claim of economic duress.


Plaintiff carrier brought an action against defendant manufacturer seeking money damages for the manufacturer's extortionate demands. A buyer refused to accept defective goods made by the manufacturer and shipped by the carrier. The manufacturer told the carrier that if the carrier did not pay the manufacturer the price of the undelivered goods, the manufacturer would cease to do business with the carrier. The carrier brought an action against the manufacturer seeking monetary damages for the manufacturer's extortionate demands. The Cabell County Circuit Court (West Virginia) certified questions concerning the effect of threats made by one party for the purpose of inducing contract concessions from the other.


Since plaintiff had no continuing contract with defendant manufacturer, did defendant’s statement to the plaintiff constitute an unlawful act under the theory of criminal extortion?




The court held that the manufacturer's threat to the carrier was not actionable business or economic duress and dismissed the case from the docket. The court held that (1) the concept of business or economic duress did not exist in the case, (2) there was no continuing contract between the manufacturer and the carrier; thus, the demand by the manufacturer that the carrier pay for the defective goods was not coupled with a threat to terminate an existing contract, (3) the carrier did not accede to the manufacturer's demand to pay over the money, (4) duress was not shown merely because one party to the contract drove a hard bargain.

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