Della Penna v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
11 Cal. 4th 376, 902 P.2d 740, 45 Cal. Rptr. 2d 436, 1995 Cal.

Facts:

When Toyota first introduced the Lexus, they included a “no export” clause. Della Penna was a wholesaler who was buying them and then exporting them to Japan for resale. When his sources dried up, he sued for intentional interference with economic relations.

History:

  • The trial court ruled in favor of Toyota because P failed to prove that D’s interference was “wrongful.”
  • The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that P is NOT required to establish wrongfulness.

Issue:

Is a P seeking to recover for an alleged interference with prospective contractual OR prospective economic relations required to prove that D (1) knowingly interfered, and that (2) the interference was wrongful?

Holding:

Yes.

Reasoning:

  • There’s a distinction to be made between Lumley and this case:
    • Interfering with someone else’s existing contract is considered wrongful in and of itself, whereas interfering with someone else’s prospective business advantage is NOT considered wrongful in and of itself.

Tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage. The elements of tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage (or prospective business relationship) are

(1) an economic relationship between the plaintiff and a third party containing a probable future economic benefit or advantage to the plaintiff;

(2) defendant’s knowledge of the existence of the relationship;

(3) the defendant intentionally engaged in wrongful acts or conduct designed to interfere with or disrupt the relationship;

(4) actual disruption; and

(5) damage to the plaintiff resulting from the defendant’s acts.