Issue: What are the elements of a claim for prima facie tort?
Area of Law:
Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Prima facie tort; Elements of claim
109 N.M. 386; 785 P.2d 726
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 870
Prima facie tort is not a recent innovation. Its development has been discussed in various law review articles and decisions spanning nearly a century. SeeBeardsley v. Kilmer, 236 N.Y.80, 140 N.E.203 (1923); Holmes, Privilege, Malice, and Intent, 8 Harv. L.Rev. 1 (1894); Brown, The Rise and Threatened Demise of the Prima Facie Tort Principle, 54 Nw. U. L. Rev. 563 (1959); Forkosch, An Analysis of the "Prima Facie Tort" Cause of Action, 42 Corness L.Q. 465 (1957); Schmitz v. Colorado Nat’l Bank Exch., 109 N.M. 386, 390, 785 P.2d 726, 730 (1990).
The theory underlying prima facie tort is that a party who intends to cause injury to another should be liable for the injury, if the conduct is generally culpable and not justifiable under the circumstances. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 870 (1977). With variations, in the several jurisdictions that have adopted the tort, its elements are generally recognized as:
1. An intentional, lawful act by the defendant;
2. An intent to injure the plaintiff;
3. Injury to the plaintiff; and
4. Absence of sufficient justification for the defendant’s acts.
SeeSchmitz, 109 N.M. at 390, 785 P.2d at 730.
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