CACI 2210 Affirmative Defense—Privilege to Protect Own Economic Interest

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

2210 Affirmative Defense—Privilege to Protect Own Economic Interest

[Name of defendant] claims that there was no intentional interference with contractual relations because [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/it] acted only to protect [his/her/nonbinary pronoun/its] legitimate economic interests. To succeed, [name of defendant] must prove all of the following:

1.That [name of defendant] had a[n] [legitimate] economic interest in the contractual relations because [specify existing economic interest];

2.That [name of defendant] acted only to protect [his/her/nonbinary pronoun/its] own economic interest;

3.That [name of defendant] acted reasonably and in good faith to protect it; and

4.That [name of defendant] used appropriate means to protect it.

Directions for Use

Give this instruction as an affirmative defense to a claim for intentional interference with contractual relations. (See CACI No. 2201.) The defense presents a justification based on the defendant’s right to protect its own economic interest.

In element 1, the jury should be told the specific economic interest that the defendant was acting to protect. Include “legitimate” if the jury will be asked to determine whether that economic interest was legitimate, as opposed perhaps to pretextual or fraudulent.

Sources and Authority

“In harmony with the general guidelines of the test for justification is the narrow protection afforded to a party where (1) he has a legally protected interest, (2) in good faith threatens to protect it, and (3) the threat is to protect it by appropriate means. Prosser adds: ‘Where the defendant acts to further his own advantage, other distinctions have been made. If he has a present, existing economic interest to protect, such as the ownership or condition of property, or a prior contract of his own, or a financial interest in the affairs of the person persuaded, he is privileged to prevent performance of the contract of another which threatens it; and for obvious reasons of policy he is likewise privileged to assert an honest claim, or bring or threaten a suit in good faith.’ ” (Richardson v. La Rancherita (1979) 98 Cal.App.3d 73, 81 [159 Cal.Rptr. 285], internal citation omitted.)

“Justification for the interference is an affirmative defense and not an element of plaintiff’s cause of action.” (Richardson, supra, 98 Cal.App.3d at p. 80.)

“Something other than sincerity and an honest conviction by a party in his position is required before justification for his conduct on the grounds of ‘good faith’ can be established. There must be an objective basis for the belief which requires more than reliance on counsel.” (Richardson, supra, 98 Cal.App.3d at pp. 82−83.)

“A thoroughly bad motive, that is, a purpose solely to harm the plaintiff, of course, is sufficient to exclude any apparent privilege which the interests of the parties might otherwise create, just as such a motive will defeat the immunity of any other conditional privilege. If the defendant does not act in a bona fide attempt to protect his own interest or the interest of others involved in the situation, he forfeits the immunity of the privilege. … Conduct is actionable, when it is indulged solely to harm another, since the legitimate interest of the defendant is practically eliminated from consideration. The defendant’s interest, although of such a character as to justify an invasion of another’s similar interest, is not to be taken into account when the defendant acts, not for the purpose of protecting that interest, but solely to damage the plaintiff.” (Bridges v. Cal-Pacific Leasing Co. (1971) 16 Cal.App.3d 118, 132 [93 Cal.Rptr. 796], original italics.)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, § 876
3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 40, Fraud and Deceit and Other Business Torts, § 40.119 (Matthew Bender)
49 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 565, Unfair Competition, § 565.137 (Matthew Bender)
12 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 122, Interference, § 122.42 et seq. (Matthew Bender)