Tortious Interference? Tell me who.


Name a few claims you’d expect to see in a non-compete case. Breach of contract. Misappropriation of trade secrets. Tortious interference with contract and relationships. These are a few claims commonly pleaded in employee defection cases.

A recent case in Pennsylvania federal court serves as an important reminder about the importance of carefully pleading tortious interference claims.

In Council for Educational Travel v. Agata Czopek and Harristown Development Corporation, the federal court granted a motion to dismiss because the plaintiff failed to identify a specific contract or relationship with whom the defendants had interfered. Observing the elements of a tortious interference claim, the court stated that the plaintiff must allege the existence of a contractual relationship with an identified third party: “Courts have held that because the subject contract actually exists, a claim must include ‘definite, exacting identification.’” In this case, the plaintiff merely alleged in conclusory fashion that the defendants’ actions interfered “with clients and/or prospective clients.” There was no indication that the failure to identify specific clients was a result of any intent to conceal the identity of a trade secret.

Likewise, while alleging tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, the plaintiff failed to allege a specific, reasonable probability that it would have entered into a specific contractual relationship with a third party. According to the court, this “requires the plaintiff to identify with sufficient precision which, if any, prospective contracts it would have entered into but for the alleged tortious interference.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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