The New York Court of Appeals ruled today that a competitor can’t defend against a claim for tortiously interfering with contracts binding customers to another competitor by alleging a "generalized economic interest" in soliciting business.  White Plains Coat & Apron, a linen rental company, alleged that Cintas, a competitor, persuaded customers to break their agreements to rent linen only from White Plains for five years.  The court distinguished between interference with prospective contracts and interference with existing ones.  An interest in getting more business may provide a defense for interfering with the former but not with the latter — at least where the thief doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with the customers it induced to breach.  White Plains Coat & Apron Co., Inc. v. Cintas Corp., No. 32 (N.Y. Apr. 26, 2007).

Barry Barnett

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