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Intentional Interference with Testamentary Expectation

1 Elements and Case Citations

Although California courts had yet to join the states that have adopted the tort of Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance (“IIEI”), the Court of Appeal recently held that “it is time to officially recognize this tort claim.”  Beckwith v. Dahl, 205 Cal. App. 4th 1039, 1046 (2012); see id. at 1056 (“a court should recognize the tort of IIEI if it is necessary to afford an injured plaintiff a remedy,” unless the plaintiff has an adequate remedy in probate).

It described the requirements to plead the tort as follows:

    1. “[T]he plaintiff must plead he had an expectancy of an inheritance”;
    2. “[A]s in other interference torts, the complaint must allege causation”;
    3. “[T]he plaintiff must plead intent, i.e., that the defendant had knowledge of the plaintiff's expectancy of inheritance and took deliberate action to interfere with it”;
    4. “[T]he complaint must allege that the interference was conducted by independently tortious means, i.e., the underlying conduct must be wrong for some reason other than the fact of the interference”;
    5. “[T]he plaintiff must plead he was damaged by the defendant’s interference”; and
    6. “[A]n IIEI defendant must direct the independently tortious conduct at someone other than the plaintiff. The cases firmly indicate a requirement that ‘[t]he fraud, duress, undue influence, or other independent tortious conduct required for this tort is directed at the testator. The beneficiary is not directly defrauded or unduly influenced; the testator is.’”

205 Cal. App. 4th at 1057-58 (allowing the plaintiff leave to amend to plead allegations consistent with these elements).  The court emphasized that “the tort of IIEI developed to provide a remedy when . . . the plaintiff had no independent tort action because the underlying tort was directed at the testator and when the plaintiff had no adequate remedy in probate.”  Id. at 1058[MMD2].

CALIFORNIA STATE COURTS

Supreme Court of California:  None

California 1st District:  None

California 2d District: None

California 3d District:  None

California 4thDistrict:  Beckwith v. Dahl, 205 Cal. App. 4th 1039, 1046 (2012); but see Munn v. Briggs, 185 Cal. App. 4th 578, 588 (2010) (noting that California courts had not yet adopted the tort and that “[t]he rule precluding a party from moving in tort when probate provides an adequate remedy applies even in those states that have recognized the tort.”).

California 5th District:  None.

California 6th District:  None.

CALIFORNIA FEDERAL COURTS

United States Court of Appeal for the 9th CircuitNone

Central District:  Jack v. Jack, No. C 12-02459 DMR, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19573, at *24-26 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2013).

Eastern District:  None

Northern DistrictNone

Southern District:  None.

2 Issues and Defenses to Claim for Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance

(1)  Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 431.30(b)(2) (pleading affirmative defenses), and other standard defenses.  See Chapter 1 for all defenses.

(2)  Statute of Limitations:  Undetermined but likely Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §339(1) (two years).

(3)  Narrow Scope of IIEI:  The tort is only viable where “the
plaintiff ha[s] no independent tort action because the underlying tort was directed at the testator and when the plaintiff ha[s] no adequate remedy in probate.”  Beckwith v. Dahl, 205 Cal. App. 4th 1039, 1058 (2012).