In Illinois, the elements of tortious interference with prospective business relationships are as follows:
1) A reasonable expectation of the plaintiff entering into a valid business relationship.
2) The defendant’s knowledge of this expectancy.
3) The defendant’s intentional and unjustifiable interference, causing a breach or termination of the expectancy.
4) The plaintiff suffering damage as a result of the defendant’s interference.
Several notable cases have detailed and applied these principles. In Titan Intern., Inc. v. Becker, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants interfered with their prospective business relations with various entities, causing economic harm. In Force Partners, LLC v. KSA Lighting & Controls, Inc., it was highlighted that commercial competitors can interfere with each other’s prospective business relationships as long as the intent is not solely motivated by malice or ill will. Doctor’s Data, Inc. v. Barrett clarified that a reasonable expectancy requires more than the mere hope of a business relationship – a plaintiff must identify a reasonable business expectancy with a specific third party. In Labor Ready, Inc. v. Williams Staffing, LLC, it was established that a company can state a claim against a competitor for tortious interference by alleging that the competitor purposely interfered with prospective business relations through various means, causing the company to lose future business. Lastly, in Giant Screen Sports LLC v. Sky High Entertainment, it was emphasized that a plaintiff must allege that the defendant’s interference prevented the expectancy from being fulfilled.
Additional case law includes Buckley v. Peak6 Investments, LP, which explained that even when an employer’s statement is deemed privileged from a tortious interference claim, the plaintiff can still prevail by showing that the defendant acted with malice. This can be achieved by showing that the defendant made unjustified statements, excessively published statements, or made statements in conflict with the interest which gave rise to the privilege. Furthermore, the terms “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage”, “business expectancy”, and “business relations” are used interchangeably under Illinois law, as noted in Allstate Insurance Company v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Finally, Butler v. Holstein Association, USA, Inc. clarified that a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant purposefully interfered, preventing the plaintiff’s legitimate expectancy from ripening into a valid business relationship. These cases collectively provide a comprehensive view of tortious interference with prospective business relations under Illinois law.