January 29, 2019

Proof an individual must submit to a court to recover damages for an alleged breach of contract and an alleged tortious interference with prospective economic advantage


Proof an individual must submit to a court to recover damages for an alleged breach of contract and an alleged tortious interference with prospective economic advantage
Mehrhof v Monroe-Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 2019 NY Slip Op 00110, Appellate Division, Second Department

Edward J. Mehrhof [Superintendent] and the Board of Education of the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District [Board] entered into a three year  "Superintendent's Employment Contract" [Contract]. Paragraph 14 of the Contract provided that the Superintendent could be discharged from employment prior to the expiration its three-year term for "good and just cause" upon a majority vote of the entire Board.

Subsequently the Contract was, from time to time, amended and ultimately provided for its extension  through June 30, 2015 with the caveat that "the Board may meet by January 30, 2015, to consider extending [Superintendent's] employment for an additional year."

In a writing labeled "Statement of Reasons for Termination" dated May 22, 2014, the Board terminated Superintendent's employment pursuant to paragraph 14 of the amended superintendent's contract whereupon Superintendent notified the Board that he was appealing the termination of his employment to an independent hearing officer designated by the Board."

On June 14, 2014 the Board's attorney wrote Superintendent that "regardless of the result of the appeal to a hearing officer, [Superintendent's] contract would not continue beyond June 30, 2015." The Board memorialized its attorney's letter with a formal resolution dated July 8, 2014. Superintendent did not pursue his appeal to a hearing officer.

In September 2015, Superintendent served a notice of claim on the Board and in May 2016 he commenced an action against the Board in Supreme Court seeking to recover damages for the Board's alleged breach of contract and its alleged  "tortious interference with prospective business advantage." The Board move to dismiss the Superintendent's complaint. In support of its motion to dismiss, the Board submitted, among other things, the Superintendent's amended complaint, the contract between the parties, the amended Superintendent's contract and the Board's resolution. The Supreme Court granted the Board's motion to dismiss Superintendent's petition and Superintendent appealed that ruling to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division said that in considering a motion to dismiss a complaint the court must accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory. The court then explained that order to state a cause of action to recover for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, the plaintiff must allege a specific business relationship with an identified third party with which the defendants interfered, citing a number of court decisions including Burns Jackson Miller Summit & Spitzer v Linder, 88 AD2d 50, 72, affd 59 NY2d 314).

Agreeing with the Supreme Court's finding that Superintendent "did not adequately plead a cause of action to recover for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage," the Appellate Division noted that Superintendent "did not identify any third parties with which he had a current or prospective economic relationship." In addition, and to the extent that Superintendent alleged that the Board interfered with a prospective contract, rather than an existing contract, the Appellate Division again agreed with the Supreme Court's determination that Superintendent "failed to adequately allege that Board engaged in the requisite culpable conduct."**

Finally the Appellate Division sustained Supreme Court's determination that the documents submitted by the Board refuted Superintendent's allegations that [1] he was entitled to recover accrued benefits for the 2014-2015 school year and [2] since Superintendent's employment was not automatically renewed for the 2015-2016 school year, he was not entitled to any damages for salary and benefits for that school year.

* In support of its motion to dismiss Superintendent's petition, the Board submitted, among other papers, Superintendent's contract, the amended contracts between the parties and the Board's relevant resolutions.

** In support of its motion to dismiss Superintendent's complaint, the Appellate Division noted that the Board had submitted  "documentary evidence" within the meaning of CPLR §3211(a)(1) reflecting official out-of-court transactions concerning Superintendent's employment and his termination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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