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Tortious Interference Claims in Pennsylvania (Prospective Clients Defined)

Under Pennsylvania law, the requisite elements of a cause of action for interference with prospective contractual relations are as follows: (1) a prospective contractual relationship;(2) the purpose or intent to harm the plaintiff by preventing the relation from occurring;(3) the absence of privilege or justification on the part of the defendant; and (4) the occasioning of actual damage resulting from the defendant’s conduct. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 766B (1979); Phillips v. Selig, 2008 PA Super 244, 959 A.2d 420, 428 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2008). With respect to the first element, the term “prospective contractual relationship,” has been regarded by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as something less than a contractual hope, but something more than a mere hopeThompson Coal Co. v. Pike Coal Co., 488 Pa. 198, 209, 412 A.2d 466, 471 (1979).

In determining whether there is a reasonable likelihood or probability of a prospective contractual relationship, courts will apply an objective standard and have consistently required more evidence than a current business or contractual relationship.  Philips, 959 A.2d at 428,429.  For example, in Thompson, the Court declined to find a prospective contractual relationship based on evidence that the parties had renewed a year-to-year lease for mineral rights for ten consecutive years.  Thompson, 412 A.2d at 472. Likewise, in Strickland v. University of Scranton, 700 A.2d 979, 983 (Pa.Super.1997), the Superior Court refused to acknowledge a prospective contractual relationship when a university administrator’s contract was not renewed after almost twenty-five years on the job. Strickland, 700 A.2d at 985. Accordingly, where a plaintiff attempts to prove a prospective contractual relationship by relying on an existing contractual relationship, the courts will deem that evidence, by itself, as insufficient as a matter of law.

If you believe that you have a potential claim for tortious interference, or you are being sued for tortious interference, please feel free to contact an attorney at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, with offices in Phladelphia, Pennsylvania and attorneys licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.