California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

2205. Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance—Essential Factual Elements

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2205.Intentional Interference With Expected
Inheritance—Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] intentionally interfered
with [his/her] expectation of receiving an inheritance from the estate of
[name of decedent]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove
all of the following:
1. That [name of plaintiff] expected to receive an inheritance from
the estate of [name of decedent];
2. That [name of defendant] knew of the expectation;
3. That [name of defendant] engaged in [specify conduct determined
by the court to be wrongful];
4. That by engaging in this conduct, [name of defendant] intended to
interfere with [name of plaintiff]’s expected inheritance;
5. That there was a reasonable certainty that [name of plaintiff]
would have received the inheritance if [name of defendant] had
not interfered;
6. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
7. That [name of defendant]’s conduct was a substantial factor in
causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
[Name of plaintiff] does not have to have been named as a beneficiary in
the will or trust or have been named to receive the particular property
at issue. A reasonable certaintyof receipt is sufficient.
New June 2013
Directions for Use
California recognizes the tort of intentional interference with expected inheritance
(IIEI). (See Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1039 [141 Cal.Rptr.3d 142].)
The wrongful conduct alleged in element 3 must have been directed toward
someone other than the plaintiff. If the defendant’s tortious conduct was directed at
the plaintiff rather than at the testator, the plaintiff has an independent tort claim
against the defendant and asserting the IIEI tort is unnecessary. It also must be
wrongful for some reason other than the fact of the interference. (Beckwith, supra,
205 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1057–1058.) Whether the conduct alleged qualifies as
wrongful if proven will be resolved by the court as a matter of law. The jury’s role
is not to determine wrongfulness, but simply to find whether or not the defendant
engaged in the conduct. If the conduct is tortious, the judge should instruct on the
elements of the tort.
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Sources and Authority
• “To state a claim for IIEI, a plaintiff must allege five distinct elements. First,
the plaintiff must plead he had an expectancy of an inheritance. It is not
necessary to allege that ‘one is in fact named as a beneficiary in the will or that
one has been devised the particular property at issue. [Citation.] That
requirement would defeat the purpose of an expectancy claim. [¶] . . . [¶] It is
only the expectation that one will receive some interest that gives rise to a
cause of action. [Citations.]’ Second, as in other interference torts, the complaint
must allege causation. ‘This means that, as in other cases involving recovery for
loss of expectancies . . . there must be proof amounting to a reasonable degree
of certainty that the bequest or devise would have been in effect at the time of
the death of the testator . . . if there had been no such interference.’ Third, the
plaintiff must plead intent, i.e., that the defendant had knowledge of the
plaintiff’s expectancy of inheritance and took deliberate action to interfere with
it. Fourth, the complaint must allege that the interference was conducted by
independently tortious means, i.e., the underlying conduct must be wrong for
some reason other than the fact of the interference. Finally, the plaintiff must
plead he was damaged by the defendant’s interference.” (Beckwith, supra, 205
Cal.App.4th at p. 1057, internal citations omitted.)
• “Additionally, an IIEI defendant must direct the independently tortious conduct
at someone other than the plaintiff. The cases firmly indicate a requirement that
‘[t]he fraud, duress, undue influence, or other independent tortious conduct
required for this tort is directed at the testator. The beneficiary is not directly
defrauded or unduly influenced; the testator is.’ In other words, the defendant’s
tortious conduct must have induced or caused the testator to take some action
that deprives the plaintiff of his expected inheritance.” (Beckwith, supra, 205
Cal.App.4th at pp. 1057–1058, internal citations omitted.)
• “[W]e conclude that a court should recognize the tort of IIEI if it is necessary
to afford an injured plaintiff a remedy. The integrity of the probate system and
the interest in avoiding tort liability for inherently speculative claims are very
important considerations. However, a court should not take the ‘drastic
consequence of an absolute rule which bars recovery in all . . . cases[]’ when a
new tort cause of action can be defined in such a way so as to minimize the
costs and burdens associated with it. As discussed above, California case law in
analogous contexts shields defendants from tort liability when the expectancy is
too speculative. In addition, case law from other jurisdictions bars IIEI claims
when an adequate probate remedy exists. By recognizing similar restrictions in
IIEI actions, we strike the appropriate balance between respecting the integrity
of the probate system, guarding against tort liability for inherently speculative
claims, and protecting society’s interest in providing a remedy for injured
parties.” (Beckwith, supra, 205 Cal.App.4th at p. 1056, internal citations
omitted.)
ECONOMIC INTERFERENCE CACI No. 2205
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Secondary Sources
5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 741
14 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Wills, § 553
Ross et al., California Practice Guide: Probate, Ch. 15-A, Will Contests, ¶ 15:115.6
et seq. (The Rutter Group)
49 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 565, Unfair Competition,
§ 565.133[2][b] (Matthew Bender)
2206–2209. Reserved for Future Use
CACI No. 2205 ECONOMIC INTERFERENCE
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