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Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations under Pennsylvania law

The tort of intentional interference with existing contractual relations is governed by Section 766 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.  See Walnut Street Associates, Inc. v. Brokerage Concepts, Inc., 982 A.2d 94 (Pa.Super. 2009), aff’d, 610 Pa. 371 (2011).

Section 766 provides: “One who intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract…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.”  Restatement (Second) of Torts § 766 (1979).

“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 Street Associates, Inc., supra at 98; Small v. Juniata College, 682 A.2d 350, 354 (Pa.Super. 1996).

In determining whether a particular course of conduct is improper for purposes of setting forth a cause of action for intentional interference with contractual relationships, the court considers: 1) the nature of the actor’s conduct; 2) the actor’s motive; 3) the interests of the other with which the actor’s conduct interferes; 4) the interests sought to be advanced by the actor; 5) the proximity or remoteness of the actor’s conduct to interference, and 6) the relationship between the parties.  Ira G. Steffy & Son, Inc. v. Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, 7 A.3d 278 (Pa.Super. 2010); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 767 (1979).

Further, there are specific circumstances in which interference with a contractual relationship is not improper.  For example, one who intentionally causes a third person not to perform a contract or not to enter into a prospective contractual relation with another does not improperly interfere with the other’s contractual relation by giving the third party truthful information or honest advice within the scope of a request for advice.  See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 772 (1979); Walnut Street Associates, Inc., supra.

If you think you might have a claim for intentional interference with contractual relations, please contact the experienced lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green in Philadelphia at 215-574-0600, who are licensed to practice law in all courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.