A plaintiff must prove the following five elements in a tortious interference with a business expectancy case: (1) the existence of a valid business expectancy; (2) that the defendant had knowledge of that business expectancy; (3) an intentional interference inducing or causing termination of the expectancy; (4) that the defendant interfered for an improper purpose or used improper means; and (5) resultant damage.
Element One: Existence of a Business Expectancy: This first element requires proof of something less than an enforceable contract, though a contract is often involved (i.e. non-competition or non-disclosure agreement). For instance, a prospective contractual or business relationship that would be of economic value such as an prospective customer, vendor or supplier. Here, you only have to show that the future business opportunity is a reasonable expectation and not merely wishful thinking.
Element Two: Knowledge of the Expectancy: The second element requires only for the defendant to have known of facts giving rise to the presence of the business expectancy, and the facts need to show the defendant had awareness of “some kind of business arrangement.”
Element Three: Intentional Interference Inducing or Causing a Breach or Termination of the Expectancy: For the third element, you need to show that the defendant desired to bring it about or that the defendant knew that the interference was certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of the defendant’s action.
Element Four: Interfered with Improper Means: On this forth element, you need to show that the defendant acted with improper motive, improper means, or both.” Improper means,” means the defendant had a duty not to interfere. To establish such a duty, the plaintiff may point to a restrictive covenant in a contract, a statute, regulation, recognized common law, or established standard of trade or profession.
Element Five: Resultant Damage: In all cases, the plaintiff must prove damages with reasonable certainty. This means you must produce evidence sufficient to support the claim that allows a reasonable basis for estimating the without mere speculation or conjecture.
For my lawyer and law student followers, here are a few cases on point:
Pac. Nw. Shooting Park Ass'n, 158 Wn.2d 342, 350, 144 P.3d 276 (2006).
Scymanski v. Dufault, 80 Wn.2d 77, 83, 491 P.2d 1050 (1971).
Newton Ins. Agency & Brokerage, Inc. v. Caledonian Ins. Grp., Inc., 114 Wn. App. 151, 52 P.3d 30 (2002).
Life Designs Ranch. Inc. v. Sommer, 191 Wn. App. 320, 364 P.3d 129 (2015)
Calbom v. Knudtzon, 65 Wn.2d 157, 165, 396 P.2d 148 (1964).
Pleas v. City of Seattle, 112 Wn.2d 794, 804-05, 774 P.2d 1158 (1989).
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