On January 31, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in A.I. Enterprises Ltd. v. Bram Enterprises Ltd., 2014 SCC 12. This is an important commercial decision as it clarifies and narrows the scope of the tort of unlawful interference in economic relations. Canadian businesses will also welcome the Court's reference to commercial certainty as one of the principal reasons to clarify and limit the scope of this tort.
As the Court noted, the tort goes by various names, including “causing loss by unlawful means”, “intentional interference with economic relations” and “interference with a trade or business by unlawful means”. Consistent with the decision, this article will use the short form “unlawful means tort”. This article will cover: the tort’s creation of “parasitic” liability in a three-party situation; the Court’s conclusion that the scope of the tort is narrow and its policy underpinnings; what this decision does to clarify inconsistency in the prior jurisprudence in terms of what types of conduct constituted unlawful means and the relationship to other torts requiring unlawful means; the gap-filling role of the tort; and the Court’s rejection of principled exceptions to the unlawful means requirement.
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