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Legal Memorandum: Civil Conspiracy in MN

Issue: What is required to establish a civil conspiracy?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Civil conspiracy; Accomplish an unlawful purpose; Lawful purpose by unlawful means
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 274 N.W. 673; 86 N.W.2d 503; 200 Minn. 554; 217 Minn. 574; 251 Minn. 74; 41 N.W.2d 818
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2009

“A conspiracy is a combination of persons to accomplish an unlawful purpose or a lawful purpose by unlawful means.”  Harding v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 230 Minn. 327, 41 N.W.2d 818, 824 (1950).  “The gist of the action is not the conspiracy charged, but the tort working damage to the plaintiff.”  Id., 41 N.W.2d at 824.  Thus, an action for conspiracy must allege an underlying tort.  D.A.B. v. Brown, 570 N.W.2d 168, 172 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997); see also Lipka v. Minn. Sch. Employees Ass’n, 537 N.W.2d 624, 632 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995) (“If the underlying claim fails, the conspiracy claim likewise fails.”), aff’d, 550 N.W.2d 618 (Minn. 1996).  Here that underlying tort is fraud.

The nature of the evidence required to prove a conspiracy has been described by the Minnesota Supreme Court as follows:

Conspirators do not make minutes of their machinations, progress and objectives.  Seldom, therefore, can conspiracy be proved by other than circumstantial evidence.  It is only by assembling the results, with such evidence as may be of the progress thereto by the participants, that the victim can ever make a case of conspiracy.  If in the end there is a completed structure of result, the frame of which has been furnished piecemeal by several individuals, the parts when brought together showing adaption to each other and fitness for the end accomplished, it is at least reasonable to infer concert in both planning and fabrication.

 

Nathan […]

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