Interference With Hawaii Contracts

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In certain specific cases, a Plaintiff may bring a claim if someone has interfered with a prospective business advantage. The Hawaii Supreme Court has addressed the required elements of this tort in Hawaii as:

[T]he following elements have evolved into the tort of intentional or tortious interference with prospective business advantage: (1) the existence of a valid business relationship or a prospective advantage or expectancy sufficiently definite, specific, and capable of acceptance in the sense that there is a reasonable probability of it maturing into a future economic benefit to the plaintiff; (2) knowledge of the relationship, advantage, or expectancy by the defendant; (3) a purposeful intent to interfere with the relationship, advantage, or expectancy; (4) legal causation between the act of interference and the impairment of the relationship, advantage, or expectancy; and (5) actual damages.

Robert’s Hawaii School Bus, Inc. v Laupahoehoe Transp. Co., Inc., 91 Hawaii 224, 258-59 (Hawaii, 1999).

With regards to determining whether there is a “valid business relationship or a prospective advantage or expectancy,” the law is well settled that a “unilateral belief and hope that a contract would result” is “inadequate to sustain a cause of action” for tortious interference with prospective business expectancy. Gore v Shepard, 50 P.3d 705, 710-11 (Wyo., 2002) “A reasonable probability of a contract [ie. business advantage] is shown if there is a reasonable assurance of a contract in view of all of the circumstances.” Id. (brackets added); See also, Sea-Pac Co., Inc. v United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union 44, 699 P.2d 217, 220 (Wash., 1985)(“the plaintiff must show that the future opportunities and profits are a reasonable expectation and not based on merely wishful thinking.”).

Moreover, the Defendant must have actually caused Plaintiff to lose a prospective business advantage. Proof of causation comes down to whether “absent the interference, the [prospective business] relations were reasonably likely to develop”. Looney v M-Squared, Inc., 586 S.E.2d 44, 49 (Ga.App., 2003). Therefore, “in order to be liable, a defendant’s interference must cause the loss or, in other words, a defendant’s conduct must not only qualify as improper interference, it must also actually induce the third party to terminate its relationship with the plaintiff.” The Film and Tape Works, Inc. v Junetwenty Films, Inc., 856 N.E.2d 612, 620-21 (Ill.App. 1 Dist., 2006) See also Gruber v. Victor, No. 95 CIV. 2285, 1996 WL 492991 at *21 (S.D.N.Y., August 28, 1996). “[T]o maintain an action for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage there must be some certainty that plaintiff would have gotten the contract but for the defendant’s interference.” (citing Mandleblatt v Devon Stores, Inc., 521 N.Y.S.2d 672, 677 (1st Dept., 1987)(internal quotation omitted).