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Tortious Interference Claims in Pennsylvania (Absence of Privilege or Justification Defined)

The tort of intentional interference with existing contractual relationships is governed by section 766 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted in Adler, Barish, Daniels, Levin & Creskoff v. Epstein, 482 Pa. 416, 393 A.2d 1175 (1978). Section 766 provides as follows: One who intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract (except a contract to marry) between another and a third person by inducing or otherwise causing the third person not to perform the contract, is subject to liability to the other for the pecuniary loss resulting to the other from the failure of the third person to perform the contract. Rest. 2d Torts § 766 (1979); Walnut St. Associates, Inc. v. Brokerage Concepts, Inc., 2009 PA Super 191, 982 A.2d 94, 97-98 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2009) aff’d, 610 Pa. 371, 20 A.3d 468 (2011).

The necessary elements of the cause of action are (1) the existence of a contractual relationship between the complainant and a third party; (2) an intent on the part of the defendant to harm the plaintiff by interfering with that contractual relationship; (3) the absence of privilege or justification on the part of the defendant; and (4) the occasioning of actual damage as a result of defendant’s conduct. Walnut St. Associates, Inc., 982 A.2d at 98.

With respect to the third element, proof must be shown that the defendant’s actions were improper under the circumstances; this is generally done through consideration of the factors listed in Restatement (Second) of Torts section 767.  The Restatement holds as follows, “In determining whether an actor’s conduct in intentionally interfering with a contract … is improper or not, consideration is given to the following factors: (a) the nature of the actor’s conduct; (b) the actor’s motive; (c) the interests of the others with which the actor’s conduct interferes; (d) the interests sought to be advanced by the actor; (e) the social interests in protecting the freedom of action of the actor and the contractual interests of the other; (f) the proximity or remoteness of the actor’s conduct to the interference; and (g) the relations between the parties.” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 767 (1979.)  There will not be liability for this tort where one intentionally causes a third person not to perform a contract by giving truthful information or honest advice within the scope of a request for the advice.  Restatement (Second) of Torts § 762; Walnut St. Associates, Inc., 982 A.2d at 98-99.  In addition, there are other factors listed in sections 768 through 773 of the Restatement (Second) that set forth specific circumstances in which interference with contractual relationships is not improper. Walnut St. Associates, Inc., 982 A.2d at 98-99.

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.