• April 4, 2014

Update (April 4, 2014): What lessons should Minnesota litigators take from the Minnesota Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gieseke v. IDCA, regarding a tort claim for “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage”?

  1. There is such a cause of action in Minnesota.
  2. Plaintiffs with such claims must be prepared to identify specific third parties with whom the plaintiff claims prospective economic relationships.

The Court’s concern that plaintiffs must not rely on vague claims of harm concerning future imagined business relationships makes sense. On the other hand, imposing this evidentiary burden on plaintiffs will undoubtedly result in some tortious but uncompensable  interference with prospective business relationships. Ever ask someone why they’re breaking up with you? (“Really, no, you’re great. It’s me. I am not good enough for you….” People are not always forthcoming when asked why a relationship holds no allure.)

RoseUpdate (September 12, 2013): (under the subject line: What’s in a name?): The Minnesota Supreme Court heard an hour of oral argument on the Gieseke v. IDCA case this week, a case in which fraternal strife resulted in competing businesses and alleged wrongful (that is, tortious) conduct by one brother on the other brother’s business.

The Minnesota Supreme Court will likely shed some light on various state appellate court decisions which seem to suggest slightly different variations (and names) for some kind of legal recourse when someone messes with another person’s business relationships (if not some specific contract).

I think most of us would agree that calling a prospective home buyer and telling them false and bad things about the home they’re about to put a bid on should be actionable.  On the other hand, maybe we would also agree that allowing a lawsuit to go forward for some kind of vague public disparagement that allegedly resulted in someone not getting a business deal consummated would spawn unsound lawsuits and be a bad idea.

Is allowing “good claims” to go forward but barring “bad ones” a hard line to draw?  I am not so sure but the Minnesota Supreme Court will likely give it a shot.

Original post (July 19, 2013):  “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II.  Call Romeo a Montague, a Capulet…who cares!?  Romeo agrees with Juliet: “Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized.”

So, not to spoil it for you, but Romeo and Juliet change their last names to “Love” and live happily ever after (though you will note that life spans were shorter back in those days).

Romeo, dead.  Juliet, on deck.

Romeo, dead. Juliet, on deck.

Actually, don’t take my word for it.  Maybe you should read the play yourself.  It can be interpreted in many different ways, like all great art.

This silly detour into nomenclature was provoked by thoughts on Gieseke o/b/o Diversified Water v. IDCA, a fraternal business battle now pending review by the Minnesota Supreme Court (and the subject of my earlier ML post here).

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held:

Minnesota recognizes tortious interference with prospective advantage, also referred to as [(1)] tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, [(2)] tortious interference with business expectancy, [(3)] wrongful interference with business relations or [(4)] relationships, [(5)] tortious interference with prospective contractual relations or[(6)] relationships, and [(7)] wrongful interference with prospective contractual relations or [(8)] relationships, as a valid tort claim.

Here is what I am thinking:  it is not helpful to have a legal theory with 9 different variant names.  In fact, it is a bad thing because Minnesota courts and Minnesotans can and do get confused as to whether there are distinctions between the variants.  Some cases are decided inconsistently with others based on a lack of agreement as to whether they fall under the same category.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has taken on the Gieseke case, in my purely uninformed speculative opinion, to give some consistency and harmony in to this area of the law.  At least that is my hope.

Post-script:  I note with interest that a one case at the core of this analysis, Harbor Broadcasting, Inc. v. Boundary Waters Broadcasters, was a 2001 Minnesota Court of Appeals decision by current Minnesota Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson.  One can imagine that it might be a nice feeling to be elevated from appellate to supreme court and be given the chance to participate and assist with the untangling of precedent that one had to puzzle and pore over on the intermediate court.

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