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Proving Tortious Interference with an Existing Contract

Feb 24, 2013

What must a plaintiff prove when claiming tortious interference with an existing contract?

To recover for a tortious interference with an existing contract, a plaintiff must prove: (1) the existence of a contract subject to interference; (2) a willful and intentional act of interference; (3) that the act was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's damages; and (4) actual damage or loss. See Butnaru v. Ford Motor Co., 84 S.W.3d 198, 207 (Tex. 2002). Proximate cause is that cause which in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any new and independent cause, produces the injury and without which the injury would not have occurred. See Phoenix Refining Co. v. Tips, 125 Tex. 69, 81 S.W.2d 60, 61 (Tex. 1935); see also Cook Consultants, Inc. v. Larson, 700 S.W.2d 231, 236 (Tex. App. – Dallas 1985, writ ref'd n.r.e.). “To show proximate cause, a plaintiff must allege that 'the defendant took an active part in persuading a party to a contract to breach it. Merely entering into a contract with a party with the knowledge of that party's contractual obligations to someone else is not the same as inducing a breach. It is necessary that there be some act of interference or of persuading a party to breach, for example by offering better terms or other incentives, for tort liability to arise.” M-I LLC v. Stelly, 733 F. Supp. 2d 759, 775 (S.D. Tex. 2010). A plaintiff is not limited to showing the contract was actually breached. Any interference that makes performance more burdensome or difficult or of less or no value to the one entitled to performance is actionable. See Khan v. GBAK Props, Inc., 371 S.W.3d 347, 359-60 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, no pet.).

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