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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Sturges - 52 S.W.3d 711 (Tex. 2001)

Rule:

To recover for tortious interference with a prospective business relation a plaintiff must prove that the defendant's conduct was independently tortious or wrongful. Independently tortious does not mean that the plaintiff must be able to prove an independent tort. Rather, it means only that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's conduct would be actionable under a recognized tort.

Facts:

A purchaser bought land gave purchasers the right to terminate if within 60 days they were unable to lease the property and "to secure the written approval of Wal-Mart Corporation to the intended use of the Property, in accordance with the right so given to Wal-Mart pursuant to certain restrictions on the Property." The right referred to was the right to approve modifications in a site plan for the property Wal-Mart held under two recorded instruments. Eventually, the purchaser brought an action against Wal-Mart, alleging tortious interference with a prospective advantage and breach of contract, following a dispute concerning the purchased land over which Wal-Mart had restriction rights. The trial court awarded the purchaser actual and punitive damages. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the award of actual damages but remanded for a retrial of punitive damages, holding that the trial court improperly excluded evidence offered by Wal-Mart during the punitive damages phase. Wal-Mart filed a petition for further review, claiming that there was no evidence that it wrongfully interfered with the purchaser's prospective advantage, or that it breached its contract. 

Issue:

Did Wal-Mart breach its contract?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court granted the petition and reversed, rendering judgment for petitioner. The court held that there was no evidence that Wal-Mart's conduct was independently tortious or unlawful, and that Wal-Mart did not breach its contract as a matter of law.

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