A tortious interference with contract California claim allows the recovery of damages for intentional or negligent acts resulting in economic damage. Tortious interference is also known in California as "economic interference."

Information About Tort Claims

When filing a claim for an intentional tort, proof must be presented that the defendant had every intention of causing alleged harm to the plaintiff or that the defendant knew harm was the likely outcome of their actions.

If the claim is for negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a certain duty of care. It must also be proved that instead of the defendant providing the duty, they breached the duty and subsequently caused the plaintiff harm.

Tortious interference with economic relations includes three actions:

  • Intentional interference with contractual relations
  • Intentional interference with a prospective economic advantage
  • Negligent interference with a prospective economic advantage

Intentional Interference With Contractual Relations

California case law governs and enforces each of these claims.

A claim involving intentional interference with contractual relations is most common when a defendant's conduct is cited as having caused the third party to breach their contract. To succeed in such a lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove five things:

  1. A legitimate contract existed between the plaintiff and third party.
  2. The defendant knew about the contract.
  3. The intentional acts of the defendant were designed to cause a breach of the contractual relationship.
  4. An actual breach or disruption of the contractual relationship occurred.
  5. The breach or disruption resulted in damage.

This tort claim must have an enforceable contract. If there is no contract or a contract exists but is unenforceable, the only recourse the plaintiff has is to file a claim for interference with prospective economic advantage.

Intentional Interference With Prospective Economic Advantage

A lawsuit for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, for the most part, involves interference with a potential contract by the defendant. It may include interference with any economic relationship that may provide benefits to the plaintiff in the future. This could include interference with any lawfully operated business, occupation, or trade.

This claim also requires that the defendant prove five things:

  1. An economic relationship between the plaintiff and a third party existed and had a probability of supplying economic benefits to the plaintiff in the future.
  2. The defendant's knowledge of the relationship.
  3. Intentionally disrupted actions.
  4. Actual disruption of the relationship.
  5. Economic harm to the plaintiff due to the defendant's actions.

Proof of a written contract is not required in an intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim.

Negligent Interference With Prospective Economic Advantage

The plaintiff must prove four things:

  1. The plaintiff and a third party had an economic relationship with the possibility of future economic benefits for the plaintiff.
  2. The defendant was aware of the relationship and was aware that their actions would interfere with the relationship.
  3. The defendant was negligent. The plaintiff must show that the conduct the defendant engaged in was wrongful in a way other than that of the interference itself.
  4. Negligence caused damage to the plaintiff and to the relationship.

Instead of proving that the defendant had actual knowledge of the economic relationship, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew or should have known and that their acts would be disruptive.

Elements of Interference Claims

A defendant's conduct must be separate from the interference. The defendant's intent is the difference between intentional interference and negligent interference.

A plaintiff must prove that the defendant's interference with an economic relationship was wrongful beyond the interference itself. If an act is unlawful, it is considered independently wrongful.

Fraud, libel, and misappropriation of trade secrets are common examples of independently wrongful acts. These examples support a cause of action for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

Damages and Recovery

Several types of damages are possible:

  • Punitive recovery for damages stems from intentional interference. It may be available if the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.
  • Damages for tortious interference with economic relations may include recovery for all resulting harm. This would include mental distress, expenses, and damage to a business's reputation.
  • Injunctive relief is available as a restraint to any threat of future interference with economic relations.

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