• Using Heightened Federal Pleading Standards, Court Dismisses Tortious Interference with Contract Claim
  • December 18, 2009 | Author: Kevin P. Allen
  • Law Firm: Thorp Reed & Armstrong, LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • In Warfield Philadelphia, L.P. v. Nat’l Passenger R.R. Corp., 2009 WL 4043112 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 20, 2009), the owner of a parking facility (“Warfield”) sued Amtrak, alleging tortious interference with contract, among other claims. The Court dismissed Warfield’s tortious interference claim because, under the new heightened federal pleading standards, Warfield had failed to plead facts to establish that the alleged interference caused Warfield any damages.

    Warfield operated a parking lot that provided shuttle service to 30th Street Station (“Station”) in Philadelphia. Amtrak owned and operated a competing parking facility directly next to the Station. Warfield charged customers $8, while Amtrak’s rate was $25.

    In an effort to market its cheaper services to the thousands of passengers that utilized the Station daily, Warfield contracted with an outdoor advertising company by purchasing advertising space on a billboard located in close proximity to the Station. Less than a week into the contractual arrangement, Amtrak wrote a letter to the advertising company demanding the removal of the billboard, and the advertising company obliged.

    Warfield claimed that Amtrak tortiously interfered with the contract between Warfield and the advertising company. Amtrak filed a motion to dismiss the claim.

    The Court stated that, in order to prevail in a tortious interference with contract claim, a plaintiff must show: (1) the existence of a contractual relationship between itself and a third party; (2) purposeful action by the defendant, specifically intended to harm an existing relationship; (3) the absence of privilege or justification on the part of the defendant; (4) legal damage to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s conduct.

    In its analysis, the Court noted that the plaintiff was seeking damages in the form of lost profits. To recover lost profits, a plaintiff must provide evidence to establish causation and delineate damages with “reasonable certainty.” Because Warfield failed to allege facts supporting a finding that it lost profits as a result of Amtrak’s alleged interference, the court granted Amtrak’s motion to dismiss.

    Warfield demonstrates that the more demanding pleading requirements that Iqbal has introduced into federal practice are a valuable weapon for defendants, and a minefield for plaintiffs, for all cases, including tortious interference with contract cases.