|Oklahoma Recognizes Tort of Interference with a Contract; Punitive Damages Possible|
Oklahoma high court held that under state law a firm can be liable for the tort of interference with a contract if it intentionally and improperly interferes with a valid contract between other parties. Punitive damages may be imposed if the action was intentional.
Interference with Contract
|C A S E S U M M A R Y|
Wilspec and DunAn both design, produce, and sell parts for air conditioning (AC) units. Wilspec entered into a three-year contract with DunAn, a Chinese corporation, for DunAn make certain parts for AC units sold in North America. The DunAn parts were to be sold under the Wilspec name, and Wilspec would be the exclusive distributor for the products in North America. Wilspec made AC parts for several AC manufacturers. Wilspec claims that while the contract was in force, DunAn intentionally interfered with Wilspec’s contractual relations with its AC customers by soliciting the sale of products to Wilspec’s customers in North America and by making disparaging remarks to Wilspec’s customers about Wilspec’s ability to perform. Wilspec sued DunAn in federal court. The contract was made under Oklahoma law. The federal court certified questions to the Oklahoma high court about the law in Oklahoma regarding intentional interference with a contract.
Questions answered. In Oklahoma, one who intentionally and improperly interferes with performance of a contract between another and a third party, by preventing the other from performing the contract or causing performance to be more expensive or burdensome, is subject to liability to the other for his pecuniary loss. For a plaintiff to seek punitive damages for tortious interference with a contract, the plaintiff must prove the defendant acted recklessly, intentionally, or maliciously by clear and convincing evidence.
Wilspec Technologies, Inc. v. DunAn Holding Group Co., 204 P.3d 69 (Sup. Ct., Okla., 2009)
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