Interference with Contract versus Interference with Business Relations
Tortious interference with a contract or business expectancy requires (1) a contract or valid business expectancy, (2) defendant’s knowledge of the contract or relationship, (3) a breach induced or caused by defendant’s intentional interference, (4) absence of justification and (5) damages. Bishop & Assocs., LLC v. Ameren Corp., 520 S.W.3d 463, 472 (Mo. 2017).
While not often appreciated, there is a distinction between tortious interference with a contract versus tortious interference with business relations. Indeed, Missouri treats these claims as separate and distinct causes of action. Honigmann v. Hunter Grp., Inc., 733 S.W.2d 799, 807-08 (MO. Ct. App. 1987). Interference with a contract refers to the defendant’s intrusion on an existing contract. City Bank & Trust Co. v. Thomas, 735 S.W.2d 121, 122-23 (Mo. Ct. App. 1987). As such, the plaintiff must plead and prove a valid contract that was in effect at the time of the induced breach. Interference with a business expectancy pertains to the defendant’s interference with a reasonable expectancy of future financial benefit. Stehno v. Spring Spectrum, L.P., 186 S.W.3d 247, 250-51 (Mo. 2006). Accordingly, the plaintiff must prove that the expctancy was reasonable and valid under the circumstances alleged.
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