The debate over what constitutes “unlawful means”, as an element of the tort of interference with economic relations by unlawful means, has finally been resolved.

In a move that promotes commercial certainty, the Supreme Court of Canada in A.I. Enterprises Ltd. et al v. Bram Enterprises Ltd. et al. has ruled that “unlawful means” require a wrong which is actionable by the third party involved. If the third party does not have a cause of action against the proposed defendant for the defendant’s conduct (or would not have an actionable claim if it suffered loss from that conduct), then neither does the proposed plaintiff for interference with economic relations by unlawful means.

The tort is not restricted to cases where no other cause of action exists against the defendant.

In view of this decision and the recent ruling on summary judgment procedure by the Supreme Court in Hyrniak v. Mauldin, it will not be surprising if we see an onslaught of summary judgment motions where this tort has been pleaded.

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