The Utah Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling last week that significantly changes tortious interference law, requiring the plaintiff to show a wrongful act to pursue a claim. The decision in Eldridge v. Johndrow partially overrules over 32 years of Utah law, including the seminal Leigh Furniture decision, and the Pratt case that considered tortious interference law in the employment context. Under Leigh Furniture, a plaintiff had to prove that the defendant interfered with a contractual or prospective relationship through either wrongful means (such as defamation) or for a wrongful purpose (malice towards plaintiff). The Eldridge case is significant for employers because it eliminates the wrongful purpose prong and requires a plaintiff to show a wrongful act in order to pursue a tortious interference claim.
One concern raised by the Pratt plurality was that under Leigh Furniture, employers could face liability if they attempted to enforce a valid noncompete agreement but otherwise acted with malice or ill-will towards the former employee. As a result of the Eldridge case, an employer can now enforce a binding agreement against a former employee without liability arising from malicious intent so long as the employer does not otherwise commit a wrongful act.
Dorsey & Whitney attorneys Milo Steven Marsden, Greg Saylin and Tyson Horrocks were trial and appellate counsel to David Johndrow in achieving this Utah Supreme Court victory.