Prima Facie Tort

The “prima facie tort” claim is incredibly vague and confusing. It has four elements: (1) an intentional, lawful act by the defendant; (2) an intent to cause injury to the plaintiff; (3) injury to the plaintiff; and (4) absence of any justification or an insufficient justification for the defendant’s act. Porter v. Crawford & Co., 611 S.W.2d 265, 268 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980). It is, essentially, a “catch-all” claim when there are no other applicable claims.

Before a claim for prima facie tort may be submitted, a court must engage in a balancing test of the following factors: (1) the nature and seriousness of the harm to the injured party, (2) the interests promoted by the actor’s conduct, (3) the character of the means used by the defendant, and (4) the defendant’s motive. Killion v. Bank Midwest, N.A., 987 S.W.2d 801, 808 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).

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