The Law Offices of Frank N. Peluso P.C. v. Rendahl
A law firm that serves as the attorney for the executor of an estate can possess a cause of action for tortious interference with business relationships against the beneficiary of an estate who allegedly criticizes the law firm's performance. The plaintiff law firm, The Law Offices of Frank N. Peluso P.C., sued the defendant, Joy Rendahl, alleging defamation, because the defendant, the sole beneficiary of an estate, allegedly said that the plaintiff's performance as the attorney for an executor of an estate was idiotic, negligent, poor and erroneous, resulting in delays, unnecessary taxes and administrative costs. The defendant moved to strike the defamation count. The plaintiff's complaint failed to adequately identify the individuals to whom the allegedly defamatory statements were issued, and the court granted the motion to strike the defamation count. "[A] complaint for defamation must on its face specifically identify what allegedly defamatory statements were made, by whom, and to whom," pursuant to Judge Marshall Berger's 2002 decision, Chertkova v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. The defendant also moved to strike counts alleging injury to business and goodwill. Injury to business and goodwill does not constitute a cognizable cause of action, and the court granted the motion to strike. The defendant also moved to strike the count alleging invasion of privacy by false light. Oral statements to individuals did not meet the publicity requirements of the tort, and the court granted the defendant's motion to strike. The plaintiff's complaint adequately alleged negligent infliction of emotional distress, and that the defendant knew or should have known her conduct might result in illness or bodily harm, and that count survived the motion to strike. The plaintiff's complaint adequately alleged claims for tortious interference with business relationships, contract relationship and estate administration, and the counts, which overlapped, survived the plaintiff's motion to strike.