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September 4, 2020

A party to a contract cannot be held liable in tort for interference with the party’s own contract. However, a nonparty may be sued for intentionally interfering with performance of a contract. In this case, the Court of Appeal examined the scope of the nonparty rule.

Defendant hired a contractor to make improvements to a property. The contractor then hired plaintiff to repave the parking lot on the property. After a dispute between the contractor and the plaintiff, defendant allegedly directed the contractor to remove plaintiff from the job. Plaintiff sued defendant for intentional interference with contract. The trial court granted defendant’s summary judgment motion based on defendant’s argument that, although not a party to plaintiff’s agreement with the contractor, defendant had an economic interest in that agreement and therefore could not be held liable for the tort of intentional interference.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that a nonparty may be held liable for intentional interference with a contract even if the nonparty has a social or economic interest in the contractual relationship. The law in California “does not confer immunity [from liability] for intentional interference with contract on noncontracting parties having a social or economic interest in the contractual relationship . . . .”