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Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp.

Supreme Court of New Jersey

October 27, 1987, Argued ; August 29, 1989, Decided

No. A-61

Opinion

 [*744]  [**33]   We granted certification, 108 N.J. 200 (1987), to review the Appellate Division's determination that plaintiffs' complaint did not state a cause of action. The complaint seeks recovery of damages for intentional interference with prospective economic relations and for defamation. ("Intentional interference with prospective economic relations" is used [***2]  in this opinion interchangeably with such expressions as "tortious interference with prospective economic advantage" or "economic benefit," "intentional interference with a prospective contractual relationship," and the like.)

Plaintiff Printing Mart-Morristown (Printing Mart) is in the business of printing  [**34]  and related services. Plaintiff Qualiano is  [*745]  the corporate plaintiff's president. Defendant Sharp Electronics Corp. (Sharp) was a customer of Printing Mart, and defendants Essenfeld, Sinoway, and Edelman were employees of Sharp. Defendants Laurriet Printing (Laurriet), B-J Printing, Inc., d/b/a Pippert Press (Pippert), and Gemini Graphics (Gemini) were Printing Mart competitors. Defendant Bert Rosenthal was an employee of Laurriet.

The complaint charges that all the defendants tortiously interfered with plaintiffs' prospective contractual relationship with defendant Sharp. It further alleges that defendant Rosenthal and the Sharp-employee defendants defamed plaintiffs with statements the thrust of which was that Printing Mart and Qualiano were "ripping off" Sharp and that Printing Mart's work was shoddy and inadequate. Separate counts of the complaint allege that [***3]  Sharp and Laurriet are liable for tortious interference and defamation under the doctrine of respondeat superior. On defendants' motion the trial court dismissed the complaint and all cross claims under Rule 4:6-2(e) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." The Appellate Division, in an unreported opinion, affirmed "essentially for the reasons expressed" by the trial court. We reverse.

We conclude that the complaint states a claim against defendant Rosenthal for intentional interference with a prospective contractual relationship. Moreover, the complaint also contains allegations of statements made by the named defendants that are actionable in a cause of action for defamation against all of them. Liability for the claims of defamation and tortious interference against Rosenthal can be imputed to Laurriet. Liability for the claims of defamation against the Sharp-employee defendants can be imputed to Sharp. Given the bare-bones character of the record on this appeal and the principles of law, set forth below, that govern the determination of the sufficiency of facts alleged in a complaint, we are content to let stand so much of the complaint as [***4]  (1) charges the Sharp-employee defendants with intentional interference with a prospective contractual  [*746]  relationship, and (2) imputes that liability to Sharp under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

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116 N.J. 739 *; 563 A.2d 31 **; 1989 N.J. LEXIS 120 ***

PRINTING MART-MORRISTOWN, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND LAWRENCE A. QUALIANO, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, v. SHARP ELECTRONICS CORP., LAURRIET PRINTING, BERT ROSENTHAL, ALLEN ESSENFELD, LARRY SINOWAY, AND MANFRED EDELMAN, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND B-J PRINTING, INC., D/B/A PIPPERT PRESS, AND GEMINI GRAPHICS, DEFENDANTS

Prior History:  [***1]  On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp., 108 N.J. 200, 528 A.2d 23, 1987 N.J. LEXIS 909 (1987)

Disposition: The judgment was reversed and the cause was remanded for proceedings consistent with the court's opinion that it was error to dismiss for failure to state a claim because appellants' complaint established a relationship leading to a profitable contract, and the law protected such a relationship. The court also held that the claim of defamation was stated with sufficient particularity as to three statement deemed defamatory.

CORE TERMS

Printing, Sharp, bid, tortious interference, defamation, cause of action, manual, prospective contractual relation, intentional interference, defamatory, cases, plaintiffs', words, reputation, alleges, principles, employees, certif, prospective economic relations, trial court, courts, economic relations, imputed, malice, complaint states, circumstances, parties, reasonable expectation, alleged facts, competitor

Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Appeals, Standards of Review, General Overview, Torts, Prospective Advantage, Intentional Interference, Elements, Business Torts, Commercial Interference, Contracts, Contracts Law, Damages, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, Affirmative Defenses, Coercion & Duress, Real Property Law, Contracts of Sale, Enforceability, Undue Influence, Business Relationships, Defenses, Preliminary Considerations, Venue, Corporations, Labor & Employment Law, Employer Liability, Contract Liability, Third Party Liability, Business & Corporate Law, Agents Distinguished, Independent Contractors, Masters & Servants, Distributorships & Franchises, Causes of Action, Interference With Business Relations, Employment Relationships, Vicarious Liability, Agency Relationships, Intentional Torts, Defamation, Defamation Per Se, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Discovery & Disclosure, Duties & Liabilities, Authorized Acts of Agents, Liability of Principals, Employers, Negligent Acts of Agents, Scope of Employment, Application of State Law, Dismissal, Involuntary Dismissals, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Pleading & Practice