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Conspiracy Cases Summarized By Injury Attorney

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Conspiracy and the related topic of intentional torts.   For more information on conspiracy cases see the pages on Wikipedia.

Conspiracy -Statutes

See Va. Code §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500

Conspiracy-Cases

2012 Van Buren v. Grubb, 284 Va. 584, 733 S.E.2d 919.
On certified question from federal court, it was held that Virginia Law recognizes wrongful discharge in violation of established public policy against an individual who is not the plaintiff’s actual employer but who was the actor in violation of public policy and who participated in the wrongful firing of the plaintiff.

2010 Syed v. ZH Technologies, 280 Va. 58, 694 S.E.2d 625.
Code Section 18.2-500 requires a finding of some compensatory damages as an element of the claim. If there is no finding of compensatory damages, then there is no liability under the statute.

2007 Almy v. Grisham, 273 Va. 68, 639 S.E.2d 182.
Grisham and other person received several anonymous, unflattering letters. Suspecting that plaintiff was the author, these individuals engaged a handwriting expert and provided to the expert confidential school files pertaining to plaintiff’s children containing plaintiff’s handwriting. Plaintiff sued alleging the intentional infliction of emotional distress and related civil conspiracy. During the course of the hearing on the demurrer, the trial court improperly took judicial notice of certain deposition testimony and therefore improperly granted the demurrer as to the intentional infliction claim. Court refused to recognize a claim for civil conspiracy to intentionally inflict severe emotional distress.

2003 Andrews v. Ring, 266 Va. 311, 585 S.E.2d 780.
Plaintiffs filed suit against prosecutor and local building inspector under Va. Code §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500. Trial court properly concluded that these code sections apply to business and property interest and not to personal or employment interest and therefore, summary judgment was properly granted.

2003 Williams v. Dominion Tech. Partners, 265 Va. 280, 576 S.E.2d 752.
Former employer sued former employee for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, tortious interference with business relationship, and business conspiracy alleging that employee had improperly elected to work as an at-will employee at power tool facility where plaintiff had placed him. Under the common law, an employee, including an employee at-will, owes a fiduciary duty of loyalty to his employer during the course of the employment. Within that general duty of loyalty is the specific duty that the employee not compete with his employer during his employment. The employee does, however, have a right to make arrangements during his employment to compete with his employer after resigning his post but this right is not absolute and must be balanced with the importance of the integrity and fairness attaching to the relationship between employer and employee. In order to sustain claim for statutory business conspiracy, plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that defendants acted with legal malice, i.e., intentionally, purposefully, and without lawful justification and that such actions injured the plaintiff’s business. In this case, employee simply arranged with employment brokerage firm to become its employee effective upon resignation from the employment agency. Specific duties that employee owes to employer are not to misappropriate trade secrets, not to misuse confidential information, not to solicit clients or other employees prior to termination of employment. This list is not exhaustive. In this particular instance, the employee’s actions did not rob his employer of any objective or tangible business opportunity or expectancy since the employee simply took advantage of an opportunity to obtain full-time employment in another capacity. In this case, since the conduct alleged was the same as to all of the different theories of recovery, the judgment in favor of the plaintiff is reversed and final judgment is entered in favor of the employee.

2002 Titan Am. v. Riverton Inv. Corp., 264 Va. 292, 569 S.E.2d 57.
Titan sought to acquire land in Warren County to use as a warehousing and distribution site. Riverton was a competitor of Titan and sought to prevent that acquisition by appearing before the local governing bodies to contest zoning change, initiating litigation in circuit court, and funding litigation undertaken by various county residents. Titan eventually filed suit for tortious interference, conspiracy, and defamation. Trial court properly held that under Noerr-Pennington Doctrine, none of the litigation was objectively baseless, that discovery was not required and that the alleged defamatory statements were made in the course of litigation and therefore, were absolutely privileged. The underlying litigation was not sham litigation because the trial court concluded it was not objectively baseless. If the trial court had concluded that it was objectively baseless, then the trial court would have to look at a second issue of whether the litigation was filed with an anti-competitive purpose to determine whether the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine was applicable. The alleged defamatory statements were found to be absolutely privileged since they were material and relevant to the proceedings.

2001 Simmons v. Miller, 261 Va. 561, 544 S.E.2d 666.
In order to make claim for statutory conspiracy to injure another in his reputation, trade business, or profession, plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that conspirators acted with legal malice, that is, proof that defendant acted intentionally, purposefully, and without lawful justification. Plaintiff does not have to prove that conspirator’s primary and overriding purpose is to injure another in his trade or business. In this case, evidence that majority shareholder and attorney were friends and godmothers to each other’s children, their offices were in the same building, that attorney signed and filed articles of organization for corporation’s competitor, and listed herself as organizer and registered agent did not establish that attorney and majority shareholder combined, associated, agreed, mutually undertook, or concerted together regarding formation of competitor.

2000 Feddeman & Co. v. Langan Assocs., 260 Va. 35, 530 S.E.2d 668.
In this suit relating to business buy-out of accounting firm, plaintiff sued on conspiracy theory under Va. Code §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500. These code sections do not require proof that conspirators primary and overriding purpose is to injure another. Plaintiff is required to show that defendants acted intentionally, purposefully, and without lawful justification. In this case, the planned mass resignation was designed to force employer to accept merger. Evidence in this case sufficient to support jury determination that defendants acted intentionally and purposefully and knew and intended that their resignation plan would injure plaintiff. Jury in this case awarded damages of $3.3 million.

1998 Advanced Marine Enters. v. PRC, Inc., 256 Va. 106, 501 S.E.2d 148.
Va. Code §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500 plaintiff does not have to prove actual malice but rather must prove legal malice that is proof that defendant acted intentionally, purposely, and without lawful justification. In this claim where defendants sought to hire block of employees of PRC without notice to PRC and employees took client documents and copies of documents containing confidential and proprietary information, standard had been met. Non-competition agreement in this case was held enforceable because it was limited to eight months and dealt only with specific services to be performed within fifty miles of a PRC office. Award of treble damages and punitive damages was not duplicative because they were awarded under different theories of recovery. Treble damages were awarded under business conspiracy claim wherein PRC was required to prove that defendants combined, associated, agreed, or acted in concert together for purpose of willfully and maliciously injuring PRC in its business by any means whatever. Punitive damages were awarded under breach of fiduciary duty and intentional interference claims.

1997 Perk v. Vector Resources Group, 253 Va. 310, 485 S.E.2d 140.
Plaintiff sued all defendants alleging principal agent relationship in this conspiracy action. Demurrer properly sustained since defendants are not separate entities but rather are agents of each other.

1996 Rash v. Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton Co., 251 Va. 281, 467 S.E.2d 791.
Mr. Rash was former employee of plaintiff who had signed non-compete agreement. Mrs. Rash formed competing company and acquired accounts of plaintiff with assistance of Mr. Rash. Court found defendants guilty of common-law conspiracy.

1996 Charles E. Brauer Co. v. NationsBank, 251 Va. 28, 466 S.E.2d 382.
Claim under conspiracy statute requires two or more persons. In this instance, bank and its agent did not constitute two persons, therefore conspiracy was legal impossibility because principal and agent are not separate persons.

1995 Commercial Bus. Sys. v. Bellsouth Servs., 249 Va. 39, 453 S.E.2d 261.
Conspiracy statute does not require actual malice but only legal malice, i.e., that defendant acted intentionally, purposely, and without lawful justification. Conspiracy statute does not require that conspirator’s primary and overriding purpose is to injure another in his trade or business. This case also involved common-law conspiracy claim which requires two or more persons combining to accomplish by some concerted action some criminal or unlawful purpose or some lawful purpose by criminal or unlawful means. Although the contract that was interfered with in this instance was terminable upon sixty days’ notice, plaintiff did have reasonable business expectancy of renewal.

1993 Luckett v. Jennings, 246 Va. 303, 435 S.E.2d 400.
Statutory conspiracy claim alleged. Plaintiff in this action did properly allege injury to business.

1993 CaterCorp. Inc. v. Catering Concepts Inc., 246 Va. 22, 431 S.E.2d 277.
Common law recognizes cause of action against those who conspire to induce breach of contract even when one of alleged conspirators is party to contract.

1992 Tazewell Oil Co. v. United Va. Bank, 243 Va. 94, 413 S.E.2d 611.
Evidence created jury issue of whether bank intended to forestall Chapter 11 filing of debtor and that it intended to simply bring debtor to its knees rather than to maximize its recovery.

1987 Fox v. Deese, 234 Va. 412, 362 S.E.2d 699.
Va. Code § 18-2-499 or 18.2-500. If defendants were within scope of employment of city, then no conspiracy since only one entity. Single entity cannot conspire with itself. If defendant employee acting within scope of employment, then no basis for claim since one cannot interfere with his own contract (contract of employer). If defendant outside scope of employment, then plaintiff must establish prima facie elements pursuant to Chaves, 230 Va. 120. Party can be liable for conspiracy to breach his own contract but this requires defendant to unite with third person. Plaintiff must establish and prove that interference induced or caused breach of contract or termination of expectancy.

1986 Greenspan v. Osheroff, 232 Va. 388, 351 S.E.2d 28.
In this case, employee did attempt to expropriate his employer’s business while employer in mental hospital. Court held that where factfinder is satisfied that defendant’s primary and overriding purpose is to injure his victim in his reputation, trade, business or profession, motivated by hatred, spite or ill will, element of malice required by Va. Code § 18-2-499 is established, notwithstanding any additional motives entertained by defendant to benefit himself or persons other than victim.<

1985 Hechler Chevrolet, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 230 Va. 396, 337 S.E.2d 744.
Civil conspiracy is combination of two or more persons, by some concerted act, to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose or to accomplish some purpose by criminal or unlawful means. The cause of action for interference with contract rights of others stops short of redressing interference with contracts terminable at will, provided no improper methods are used.

1984 Glass v. Glass, 228 Va. 39, 321 S.E.2d 69.
Civil conspiracy is combination of two or more persons to accomplish unlawful purpose or to accomplish lawful purpose by unlawful means resulting in damage to plaintiff. There is cause of action for conspiracy to induce breach of contract. Allegation of tortious interference with prospective contract also sets forth cause of action. Courts in other states have recognized cause of action for interference with prospective business or economic advantage even though no breach of contract was involved. Elements of such cause of action are: existence of business relationship or expectancy with probability of future economic benefit to plaintiff, defendants’ knowledge of relationship or expectancy, reasonable certainty that absent defendant’s intentional misconduct plaintiff would have continued in relationship or realized expectancy, and damage to plaintiff. In this case, in deciding to sell majority stock to another purchaser, defendant officers and directors did not tortiously interfere with plaintiff’s expectancy with anticipated purchaser.

1984 Allen Realty Corp. v. Holbert, 227 Va. 441, 318 S.E.2d 592.
To recover in action for conspiracy to harm business plaintiff must prove combination of two or more persons for purpose of willfully and maliciously injuring plaintiff in his business and resulting damage to plaintiff. See Va. Code §§ 18.2-499 and 18.2-500. This cause of action arises from intentional improper interference with another’s contractual relations, and this interference must induce or otherwise cause third party not to enter into prospective contract with plaintiff, or prevent plaintiff from entering into contract.

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Conspiracy Cases Summarized By Injury Attorney

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