Acme LLC makes widgets. Bob is a member of Acme.

Bob tries to take Acme's widget maker, thinking he can operate the machine himself, but breaks it in the process. Of course Bob has also violated his covenants as a member of Acme. Acme sues Bob and obtains a money judgment against Bob for damages – to the machine, to Acme's business, and for the costs of litigation. But Bob is as poor as he is stupid, so Acme can't collect on the judgment.

Acme had a contract with Charlie to supply widgets. In the course of suing Bob, Acme discovers that just prior to Bob's perfidy Charlie had entered an agreement to buy widgets directly from Bob, instead of from Acme. Charlie knew that Bob could only supply widgets by taking the widget maker from Acme.

In this scenario it seems like Charlie and Bob have committed some sort of tortious conspiracy. What are the correct legal terms? I think "tortious interference" and/or "tortious inducement," but not sure.

Charlie has plenty of money. In this scenario is Charlie liable for any of the damages that Acme was awarded against Bob? If so, on what common law basis?

1 Answer 1


How far does liability extend in a civil conspiracy?

It extends to joint and several liability insofar as that "is another vital instrument for maximizing deterrence" Paper Systems Inc. v. Nippon Paper Industries Co., 281 F.3d 629, 633 (2002). Charlie's awareness that Bob would have to misappropriate Acme's equipment implies that Charlie was in a position of being able to deter Bob. Accordingly, Charlie's failure to try deterring Bob (let alone notify Acme) also renders Charlie liable to Acme.

Similarly, EMI Sun Village, Inc. v. Catledge, 16-11841, (11th Cir. June 2019, unpublished):

[T]he law regarding conspiracy [in Florida] is well-settled, and provides that an act done in pursuit of a conspiracy by one conspirator is an act for which each other conspirator is jointly and severally liable.

(brackets in original, citing Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Alexander, 123 So.3d 67, 80 (2013)).

But joint and several liability is applicable only in regard to "compensatory damages, [whereas] punitive damages [if available] are assessed separately against each defendant [...] [so as] [t]o ensure compliance with the constitutional demand for fairness", Green v. Howser, 942 F.3d 772, 781 (2019) (brackets added).

Ascertaining the sense or direction of one or more claims of tortious interference/inducement involves additional details. For instance, if even prior to agreeing with Charlie Bob had set his mind to taking Acme's equipment, Acme has no viable claim against Charlie for tortious interference/inducement in regard to Bob's relation with Acme. That is because, although unbeknownst to Acme, the relation was essentially broken beforehand.

From another angle, if breaking the equipment harms Acme's business with other clients, Acme would have claims for tortious interference in which Bob and Charlie would be jointly and severally liable regardless of Charlie's knowledge of Acme's other relations. Likewise, Acme has a viable claim of civil conspiracy pursuant to the harm Bob caused to Acme's property.

  • The statement by the FL Appeals court is salient, but is there a Restatement or something of broader authority confirming that "the law regarding conspiracy is well-settled, and provides that an act done in pursuit of a conspiracy by one conspirator is an act for which each other conspirator is jointly and severally liable?"
    – feetwet
    May 2, 2021 at 17:28
  • 1
    @feetwet Yes. See Burlington North. and Santa Fe RY. vs. U.S., 129 S.Ct. 1870,1881 (2009) ("where two or more persons cause a single and indivisible harm, each is subject to liability for the entire harm", citing Restatement (Second) of Torts at § 875). Charlie's awareness of the circumstances amounts to agreement, hence supporting a finding of civil conspiracy. See pages 15-19 in this pdf from Vanderbilt Law Review (citing Restatement at §876). May 2, 2021 at 18:42

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