Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1967, No. 1027, in case of Frank A. Glenn and Thomas S. Christo v. Point Park College.
Jerome DeRiso, with him Tice F. Ryan, Jr., and Ryan and Bowser, for appellants.
William J. Staley, with him C. F. C. Arensberg, and Tucker, Burke, Campbell & Arensberg, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case.
This appeal presents the question of the sufficiency of a complaint in a suit in trespass wherein real estate brokers seek damages from a vendee of real estate by reason of negotiating a direct purchase from the vendor, thus interfering with a prospective economic gain by the brokers in the form of their anticipated commissions from the vendor. More precisely, the issue is whether the brokers have stated a cause of action against the vendee for tortious interference with a prospective contractual relationship between the brokers and the vendor. The lower court held not and dismissed the complaint.*fn1 This appeal followed.
Interference with a prospective contractual relation is a tort long recognized at common law.*fn2 It is formulated thusly in the Restatement of Torts, § 766: ". . . one who, without a privilege to do so, induces or otherwise purposely causes a third person not to . . . (b) enter into or continue a business relation with another is liable to the other for the harm caused thereby."*fn3
The courts of this Commonwealth have accepted and applied § 766 in a variety of situations, but apparently not heretofore in the area of prospective as distinguished from presently existing contractual or business relations.*fn4 In Glazer v. Chandler, 414 Pa. 304, 307, 308, 200 A.2d 416 (1964), however, this Court indicated that recovery in tort would be allowed for interference
with prospective contracts or business relations of third parties with a plaintiff. We see no reason whatever why an intentional interference with a prospective business relationship which results in economic loss is not as actionable as where the relation is presently existing, although we recognize that there well may be more difficult problems of proof in the latter situation.*fn5 Indeed, the disagreement between the parties here is not as to the existence of the tort, but whether appellants have sufficiently pleaded it. We therefore turn to the allegations of the complaint.
Appellants aver in their amended complaint ("complaint") that they are duly licensed real estate brokers; that early in 1962 they advised appellee that a property in Pittsburgh known as the Sherwyn Hotel ("the Hotel") was to be sold; that the owner of the Hotel was Allegheny Sheraton Corporation (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sheraton Corporation of America) ("Sheraton"); that appellants showed the property to appellee in 1962, telling it that Sheraton, while it would not have anyone as exclusive broker, would entertain offers through brokers, and would pay the customary commission; that in 1966 appellants quoted to appellee a possible sale price for property, including furnishings, of $790,000; that appellee then expressed continued interest in the purchase and proposed a meeting with the officers of appellee to discuss it; that such meeting was held on October 10, 1966, following ...