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A very recent decision written by former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert (sitting as a Special Senior Judge of the Court of Appeals) in Snow Pallet, Inc. v. Monticello Banking Co., 2011-CA-696 (http://opinions.kycourts.net/coa/2011-CA-000696.pdf) (4/20/2012), concisely outlined the elements of claims of tortious interference with contractual relations and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.  

The elements of a contract interference claim are: (1) the existence of a contract; (2) the tortfeasor’s knowledge of the contract; (3) the tortfeasor intended to cause a breach of the contract; (4) the tortfeasor did actually cause a breach; (5) damages to the party claiming breach; and (6) no privilege or or other legal justification that would excuse the tortfeasor’s conduct. 

The elements of a claim for interference with business advantage do not require a contract, but do require the following: (1) existence of a valid business relationship or expectancy; (2) the tortfeasor was aware of the relationship or expectancy; (3) the tortfeasor intentionally interfered; (4) improper motive; (5) causation; and (6) special damages. 

The case also dealt with the issue of whether a bank is a fiduciary of its customer. The Court held that unless a bank either (1) fails to disclose material facts regarding a loan it is making to a customer or (2) uses confidential financial information provided by the customer to the customer’s detriment, a bank is generally not held to the status of a fiduciary of its customers. 

NOTE: Snow Pallet, Inc. v. Monticello Banking Co. is not yet final but was designated for publication in the South Western Reporter. Nonfinal decisions should not be cited as authority to a Kentucky court.

David Kramer is a Northern Kentucky attorney practicing at Dressman Benzinger LaVelle psc.

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