By Jack Strauss
Tony was the proud proprietor of a clip joint with no rival. He operated the only barbershop in town. Then one unfortunate day, he made the mistake of getting into a heated argument with Quincy, the town banker, who became more interested in burying Tony instead of the hatchet. To do so, he imported two tonsorial artists and opened a competing barbershop...at cut rate prices...directly across the street from Tony’s shop. And, if his low prices weren’t sufficient enough to entice away Tony’s customers, the determined banker used his financial influence in the community to wean even more of Tony’s customers.
Pretty soon, Tony began to feel like he was living in a town with only bald headed men. Not even gophers came in for a hair cut. Consequently, he sued the banker for depriving him of his livelihood.
“The only reason he opened his barbershop”, Tony complained to the judge, “was to give me a trimming and, boy has he succeeded. My cash register is dying of malnutrition.”
“There’s nothing illegal about competition”, responded the banker. “In this country, that’s the name of the game.”
IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you make the banker pay up for giving Tony a trimming?
This is how the judge ruled: YES! The judge held that when a person sets up a competitive business for the sole purpose of driving another out of business, and diverts away customers purely to accomplish that malevolent purpose, he can be held liable for the losses caused to his victim.
(Based upon a 1909 Minn. Supreme Court Decision)
Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.