Legal Memorandum: Elements of a Prima Facie Tort Claim

Issue: What are the elements of a claim for prima facie tort?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Prima facie tort; Elements of claim
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 109 N.M. 386; 785 P.2d 726
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 870
Date: 04/01/2001

       Prima facie tort is not a recent innovation.  Its development has been discussed in various law review articles and decisions spanning nearly a century.  See Beardsley 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. 

See Schmitz, 109 N.M. at 390, 785 P.2d at 730.


Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)