Tortious interference with a contract recognizes that a person's business relationships constitute a property interest, and as such are entitled to protection from unjustified tampering by another. The Film and Tape Works, Inc. v. Junetwenty Films, Inc., 368 Ill.App.3d 462, 468 (1st Dist. 2006). The Illinois First District Appellate Court held in order to state a cause of action for tortious interference with a contract, the plaintiff must allege: (1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the plaintiff and a third party; (2) defendant's awareness of the contract; (3) defendant's intentional and unjustified inducement of a breach; (4) defendant's wrongful conduct caused a subsequent breach of the contract by the third party; and (5) damages. Purmal v. Robert N. Wadington and Associates, 354 Ill.App.3d 715, 727 (1st Dist. 2004).
The first element for the tort of interference with contractual rights requires the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the plaintiff and another. Illinois Jurisprudence, Personal Injury and Torts § 14:04. The general rule that a person cannot sue for interference with a contract that is unenforceable has been applied only to contracts that are void from their inception due to their subject matter or the lack of the necessary formation requisites. Id. Furthermore, a cause of action for tortuous interference with a contract does not exist where a party seeking to bring the claim is, in fact, a party of the contractual relationship, which the claim is based upon. Cress v. Recreation Services, Inc., 341 Ill.App.3d 149, 176 (2d Dist. 2003).
The second element for the tort of interference with a contract requires the defendant to have knowledge of the contract. Purmal, 354 Ill.App.3d at 727. For purposes of pleading a cause of action for interference with contract, the plaintiff need only allege the defendant's knowledge of the contract. Guice v. Sentinel Technologies, Inc., 294 Ill.App.3d 97, 110 (1st Dist. 1997). “The exact date upon which knowledge of the existence of a contract was acquired by the defendant is irrelevant, provided that the acquisition of such knowledge preceded the alleged conduct of interference.” Guice v. Sentinel Technologies, Inc., 294 Ill.App.3d 97, 110 (1st Dist. 1997).
The third element for a cause of action of interference with a contract requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant intentionally and unjustifiably induced the third party to breach the contract. Illinois Bell Telephone Co. v. Plote, Inc., 334 Ill.App.3d 796, 806 (1st Dist. 2002). The element of intentional and unjustified inducement of a breach of the contract requires the intentional and malicious inducement of the third person to breach the contract. Illinois Jurisprudence, Personal Injury and Torts § 14:05. “The test for inducement requires an intention on the part of the actor to interfere with another's contractual relations. To do so, he or she must know of the existence of the contract with which he or she interferes. Establishing inducement requires some active persuasion, encouragement, or inciting that goes beyond merely providing information in a passive way.” Id.
The fourth element for a cause of action of interference with a contract requires that the defendant's wrongful conduct caused a subsequent breach of the contract by the third party. Purmal, 354 Ill.App.3d at 727. The breach element requires either a breach of contract, a termination of contractual relations, or a rendering performance impossible. Illinois Jurisprudence, Personal Injury and Torts § 14:06. There need not be a termination or breach of the contract before a cause of action for interference with a contract exists. Id. The plaintiff must show that the contract was in fact breached or that a breach is imminent. Id.
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