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A party to a contract has a cause of action against any third party for tortious interference of a contract where that third party wrongly induces another contracting party to breach the contract. Holloway v. Skinner, 898 S.W.2d 793, 794–95 (Tex. 1995).  The elements of tortious interference with an existing contract are: 1) an existing contract subject to interference; 2) a willful and intentional act of interference with the contract; 3) that proximately caused the plaintiff's injury; and 4) caused actual damages or loss.  Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Fin. Review Servs., Inc., 29 S.W.3d 74, 77 (Tex. 2000); Cmty. Health Sys. Prof'l Servs. Corp. v. Hansen, 525 S.W.3d 671, 689 (Tex. 2017).  Actionable interference with a contract includes any act which retards, makes more difficult, or prevents performance.  Moore v. Bushman, 559 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet.).  To prevail on this claim, a plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant interfered with a specific contract.  Funes v. Villatoro, 352 S.W.3d 200, 213 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, pet. denied).   To establish the element of a willful and intentional act of interference, a plaintiff must produce some evidence that the defendant was more than a willing participant and knowingly induced one of the contracting parties to breach its obligations under a contract. Ferrara v. Nutt, 555 S.W.3d 227, 243 (Tex. App.—Houston (1st Dist.] 2018, no pet.).  Accordingly, the plaintiff must present evidence that some obligatory provision of a contract has been breached.  Id. 

Affirmative Defense.  A defendant may negate liability on the ground that its conduct was privileged or justified. Prudential Ins. at 77–78.  This justification defense is based on Defendant’s exercise of either it’s own legal rights or a good-faith claim to a colorable legal right, even though that claim ultimately proves to be mistaken.” Tex. Beef Cattle Co. v. Green, 921 S.W.2d 203, 211 (Tex. 1996). If a court finds as a matter of law that the defendant had a legal right to interfere with a contract, then the defendant has conclusively established the justification defense and the motivation behind assertion of that right is irrelevant.  Id.

Statute of Limitations.  A claim for tortious interference of contract has a two-year statute of limitations. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Rincones, 520 S.W.3d 572, 592 (Tex. 2017). The claim accrues at the time a contracting party knows the nature of the injury and the damages, regardless of whether the contract is terminated at that time.  Id., at 592.

Tortious Interference With an Existing Contract

© 2020 Mark Courtois

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