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Legal Memorandum: Tortious Interference with Contract in WI

Issue: Under Wisconsin law, what are the elements of tortious interference with contract or prospective contract?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts
Keywords: Tortious interference with contract; Prospective contract; Elements
Jurisdiction: Wisconsin
Cited Cases: 62 Wis. 2d 273; 9 Wis. 2d 487; 228 Wis. 2d 425; 101 N.W.2d 805
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2015

The tort of tortious interference with contract or prospective contract is committed when “[o]ne who, without a privilege to do so, induces another . . . not to perform a contract with another [and such actor] is liable for the harm caused thereby.”  Lorenz v. Dreske, 62 Wis. 2d 273, 286, (1974).  The elements of the tort are: (1) the plaintiff had a contract or prospective contractual relationship with a third party; (2) the defendant interfered with the relationship; (3) the interference was intentional; (4) a causal connection exists between the interference and the damages; and (5) the defendant was not privileged to interfere.  See Dorr v. Sacred Heart Hosp., 228 Wis. 2d 425, 456-57, 597 N.W.2d 462 (Ct. App. 1999). 

Even if a contractual relationship is terminable at will, a claim for tortious interference with contract may still be viable.  Mendelson v. Blatz Brewing Co., 9 Wis. 2d 487, 491, 101 N.W.2d 805, 807 (1960). 

If a corporate officer ‘”causes or participates in authorizing a breach of contract between [the corporate officer’s] company and a third person, [the corporate officer] may well be regarded as protected only by a conditional privilege, which will be destroyed by a wrongful motive.'” Lorenz, 62 Wis. 2d at 287.

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