Labor Law-Prima Facie Tort Doctrine Bars Unreasonable Deprivation of Union Membership-Hurwitz v. Directors Guild of America, Inc.

In July 1965 the officers of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Directors International Guild (SDIG) concluded a merger agreement which provided that DGA was to be the surviving union and SDIG members were to become members of DGA automatically upon signing the DGA non-Communist loyalty oath. Although the SDIG membership ratified the merger agreement by a majority vote, six members steadfastly refused to sign the oath and as a result were not admitted to membership in DGA. They thereupon brought a diversity suit in a New York federal district court: and moved for a preliminary injunction ordering DGA to admit them without requiring them to sign the oath. The court denied the motion. On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held, reversed. Deprivation of union membership inevitably causes economic injury, and therefore constitutes a prima facie tort. Although prevention of subversive infiltration may justify the infliction of such injury, the DGA oath was unreasonably vague and thus an impermissible means of accomplishing this objective.