7 LLC v. Lynch; Cahill v. 7 LLC
A potential buyer, who lacks a valid purchase contract and who files suit for specific performance, can owe damages for tortious interference with the sellers' purchase-and-sales contract with a third party. In January 2008, Diana Lynch agreed to pay $1.77 million for the sellers' property. During contract negotiations, Lynch sought to amend the purchase-and-sales agreement, to indicate the price included furniture. The sellers crossed out the handwritten addition. Lynch reinserted it and added a warranty. In February, the sellers signed a contract with another individual, Nancy Cahill, who agreed to pay $1.82 million. Lynch sued the sellers for specific performance, alleging that they breached the contract. Lynch also sued Cahill, alleging she tortiously interfered with contract. In July 2008, Judge Clarance Jones found that Lynch lacked probable cause. As soon as Lynch withdrew the suit in February 2009, the sellers agreed to reduce the price to $1.69 million, and Cahill purchased. Tortious interference with a contract takes place when the defendant, knowing about a contract, intentionally seeks to interfere, and the plaintiff suffers damages. The court found that Lynch intentionally interfered with the sellers' contract with Cahill, even after the court found that she lacked probable cause. "If Lynch had withdrawn her lawsuit at the time Judge Jones found she had no valid contract to purchase," wrote the court, "then the plaintiffs would have been able to sell the Property with only a slight extension of the sale date, with no diminution in the sale price." The court awarded the sellers damages of $135,000, which was the amount that they reduced the property price, because of the delay caused by Lynch's suit, plus $54,000, for the loss of the use of $1.8 million in sales proceeds for nine months. The court did not award carrying costs, because the sellers resided at the property and were not entitled to living expenses. The court awarded Cahill, who was forced to move repeatedly, the costs of one move, $3,761, plus $3,125 in storage expenses, $6,000 in rental expenses and $7,000 in attorneys' fees. The court also awarded punitive damages, restricted to the costs of suit.