Popescu v. Apple, Inc.

Though had an economic interest in plaintiff’s contract of employment with its supplier, Apple is not immune from the plaintiff’s complaint that Apple intentionally interfered with that contract by inducing the supplier to terminate plaintiff for resisting Apple’s allegedly wrongful efforts to steal the supplier’s technology.  A non-party to a contract is not immunized from liability for intentionally interfering with the contract merely because it has an economic or other legitimate interest in how the contract is performed.  So, here, Apple could be held liable for interfering with plaintiff’s employment contract with one of Apple’s suppliers even though Apple had an interest in how plaintiff performed under his employment contract on a project relating to supplying metal covers for Apple iPhones.  Furthermore, though plaintiff’s employment contract was at-will, he didn’t need to show that Apple’s interfering conduct was independently wrongful.  Reeves v. Hanlon (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1140 is distinguishable as it was a suit by a former employer against a later employer for stealing employees and thus invoked the state’s strong public policy favoring free mobility of labor.  Here, a terminated employee sued, and that public policy was not in issue.  Plaintiff also stated an interference with prospective economic advantage claim which did require independently wrongful conduct.  That conduct was alleged to be the fact that Apple had plaintiff terminated because he resisted Apple’s wrongful efforts to steal the employer’s technology and to monopolize aluminum covers for cellphones.  Conduct that is wrongful because it harms third parties, not the plaintiff, satisfies the interference tort’s independently wrongful conduct element.

California Court of Appeal, Sixth District (Marquez, J.); July 1, 2016; 2016 WL 3578970


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