Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Economic Tort Definition:

Intentional tort wherein a defendant uses an unlawful means to cause a plaintiff some economic loss.

Related Terms: Intimidation, Intentional Tort, Unlawful Interference with Economic Interests, Inducing Breach of Contract, Conspiracy, Slander of Title, Passing-Off, Tort, Civil Conspiracy

Also known as business torts.

The traditional list of economic torts is conspiracy, unlawful interference with economic interests, intimidation and inducing a breach of contract. But this list is not frozen and is subject to expansion as the economy evolves and new torts may be required to address business wrongs or inequities not previously contemplated (eg. privacy, social media, corporate espionage or Internet-based torts).

Justice Poyner of the US Court of Appeals, in a 2006 article, wrote:

"I define economic torts to mean tort claims that do not allege physical contact with the victim or his property or harm to such non-financial, or at least noncommercial, goods as business reputation and personal privacy."

In No. 1 Collision Repair & Painting (1982) Ltd. v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, Justice Lambert of the British Columbia Court of Appeal used these words:

"The three causes of action may be identified as unlawful interference with economic interests, intimidation, and restraint of trade, which for convenience, I will call, collectively, the economic torts, though, as I will discuss, restraint of trade may arguably be categorized, for historical reasons, as an equitable wrong rather than a tort."

To the extent that the statement of law purports to limit the list of traditional economic torts, it is deficient as it omits the torts of inducing of a breach of contract and conspiracy.

Indeed, consider this excellent summary of Canadian jurist Tamra Alexander:

"The torts of procuring a breach of contract, intimidation, unlawful interference (with economic interests) and conspiracy are generally described today as economic torts.They form the core of the liabilities for intentional torts in respect of economic interests and the principles governing them are closely interrelated.

"The description economic torts is useful, even if not strictly accurate when the liabilities involved can extend more widely than damage to economic interests.

"The term economic tort is also applied more widely to other torts, such as passing off, malicious falsehood, slander of title, and wrongs in respect of patents, trademarks or breach of copyright with which the core economic torts are frequently contiguous."

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