The Best Defense to Tortious Interference Claims in New York
Here's a dose of some cold, hard truth:
As a practical matter it is far from simple to prove a tortious interference with contract claim under New York law.
The Two Main Elements Needed for a Successful Tortious Interference With Contract Claim
First, there are two (2) primary elements that the plaintiff must prove in order to demonstrate tortious interference with contract:
1) That the defendant intentionally induced a third party to break their contract with the plaintiff; AND
2) That the defendant did so without justification.
"Why is that so hard?" you ask.
Why It's So Hard to Win a Tortious Interference With Contract Claim Under NY Law
The answer lies in the latter prong - without justification - because that is where many defendants have successfully defeated tortious interference claims.
The reason this defense is often so potent is really simple:
All the defendant needs to show is that their actions were undertaken for their legitimate economic interests.
That's right; that includes garden-variety competition.
Make no mistake: that is a very broad category.
In fact, New York's highest court has held that this exemption applied not only where the defendant was a direct competitor of the plaintiff's but even if they weren't directly competing, and summarized the rule as follows:
"The existence of competition may often be relevant, since it provides an obvious motive for defendant's interference other than a desire to injure the plaintiff; competition, by definition, interferes with someone else's economic relations. Where the parties are not competitors, there may be a stronger case that the defendant's interference with the plaintiff's relationships was motivated by spite. But as long as the defendant is motivated by legitimate economic self-interest, it should not matter if the parties are or are not competitors in the same marketplace." (Carvel Corp. v Noonan, 3 NY3d at 191.)
Obviously, this is not an easy hurdle to clear.
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