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Interference with Business Contracts/Expectancy

Missouri case law has established situations where an individual or business can be liable for interfering with contractual or business relationships. The civil tort of tortious interference with business expectancy requires a few elements: there must be a (1) valid existing contract or business expectancy; (2) the defendant has knowledge of the existing contract or business expectancy; (3) a breach of contract is induced or caused by the defendant’s intentional interference; (4) there is no justification for the breach; and (5) there are ascertainable damages from the breach. Nazeri v. Missouri Valley College, 860 S.W.2d 303 (Mo.1993).

For the first element, there generally needs to be an existing contractual relationship because in our market economy the law encourages prospective business competition. For the second, the defendant has to have specific knowledge of the business/contract relationship, and, despite this knowledge, still acts intentionally to disrupt and breach the relationship.

Perhaps the most crucial thing to note is that for business expectancy the expectancy cannot be one that is merely subjective (i.e., a hope). Rather, it must be an objective, reasonable expectancy.

This lawsuit is not one that is easily established. Missouri law, and the law of just about every other State, promotes business activity and the creation of new business relationships. Accordingly, to make a submissible case, the elements have to be clear. It’s okay to have good-faith competition between businesses, but it’s quite another to intentionally disrupt a business relationship for the purposes of breaching a contract/business expectancy.
Because this cause of action is founded in case precedent, much of the answers and intricacies of this tort are only discovered after a judicious study of court opinions.

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