Commercial Division Blog
No Tortious Interference Claim If Defendant Not But-For Cause of Breach
On August 18, 2015, Justice Pines of the Suffolk County Commercial Division issued a decision in Oikonomos, Inc. v. Bahrenberg, 2015 NY Slip Op. 51300(U), holding that a plaintiff had no claim for tortious interference without proof that the defendant was the but-for cause of the breach, explaining:
The elements of the tort of interference with contract are: (1) the existence of a valid contract, (2) defendant's knowledge of that contract, (3) defendant's intentional procuring of the breach, and 4) damages. A causal relationship between defendant's actions and the third party's breach of contract must be demonstrated. A majority of New York Courts that have addressed the issue have held that defendant is liable for tortious interference only if the breach would not have occurred but for defendant's conduct. Here, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, accepting the Plaintiffs' evidence as true, and giving the Plaintiffs every favorable inference that can be reasonably drawn therefrom, there is insufficient evidence demonstrating that the purported breaches of the lease agreements and guaranties would not have occurred but for the conduct of [the defendant].
(Internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).