Distinguishing and limiting Reeves v. Hanlon (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1140, this decision holds that one who is not a party to the contract or an agent of a party to the contract is a “stranger” for purpose of the tort of intentional interference with contract. If all the elements of an intentional interference claim are properly alleged, such a nonparty to the contract cannot escape liability merely because the contract contemplates the nonparty’s performance. Here, Trader Joe’s allegedly induced food producers to breach their brokerage agreements with plaintiff and sell directly to Trader Joe’s at a lower price since they didn’t need to pay plaintiff’s commission. Trader Joe’s could be held liable for interfering with the brokerage contract even though that contract contemplated Trader Joe’s performance of its contracts to buy from the producers. Plaintiff stated an actionable interference claim even if its brokerage contracts were terminable at will, a fact not apparent on the face of its complaint, without proving an independently wrongful act of interference. Reeves v. Hanlon (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1140 is distinguishable because it involved an at-will employment contract.
California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Seven (Perluss, J.); February 27, 2018; 2018 WL 1062596.