NBT Bancorp Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Financial Group Inc.

CourtNew York Supreme Court Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtBefore MIKOLL; MIKOLL
Citation215 A.D.2d 990,628 N.Y.S.2d 408
PartiesNBT BANCORP INC. et al., Appellants, v. FLEET/NORSTAR FINANCIAL GROUP INC. et al., Respondents.
Decision Date25 May 1995

Page 408

628 N.Y.S.2d 408
215 A.D.2d 990
NBT BANCORP INC. et al., Appellants,
v.
FLEET/NORSTAR FINANCIAL GROUP INC. et al., Respondents.
Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
Third Department.
May 25, 1995.

Page 410

Metzger, Hollis, Gordon & Mortimer (Eugene J. Metzger, of counsel), Washington, DC and Lee, Emerson & Dean, Norwich, for appellants.

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton (Richard F. Ziegler, of counsel), New York City and Hinman, Howard & Kattell, Binghamton, for respondents.

Before MIKOLL, J.P., and CREW, CASEY, YESAWICH and SPAIN, JJ.

MIKOLL, Justice Presiding.

Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court (Coutant, J.), entered August 8, 1994 in Chenango County, which granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

This matter was previously before this court wherein we affirmed Supreme Court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint against defendants 1 except as to a cause of action for tortious interference with prospective business relations (NBT Bancorp, Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Financial Group, Inc., 159 A.D.2d 902, 553 N.Y.S.2d 864, appeal dismissed 76 N.Y.2d 886, 561 N.Y.S.2d 546, 562 N.E.2d 871, lv. dismissed 76 N.Y.2d 982, 563 N.Y.S.2d 770, 565 N.E.2d 519). We are now presented with Supreme Court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the remaining cause of action for tortious interference with business relations, from which plaintiffs appeal. Supreme Court found that plaintiff NBT Bancorp Inc. (hereinafter NBT) failed to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of fact as to whether defendants used "wrongful means" to interfere with an attempted merger between NBT and Central National Bank (hereinafter Central) or, even if any wrongful means were used, that such means caused the stockholders to repudiate the merger. The court found that the actions of dissenting director Herbert Kling were a superseding cause of the termination of the merger.

To successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment on a cause of action for tortious interference with prospective business relations, plaintiffs must establish that defendants engaged in the use of wrongful or unlawful means to secure a competitive advantage over plaintiffs, or that defendants acted for the sole purpose of inflicting intentional harm on plaintiffs (see, e.g., Guard-Life Corp. v. S. Parker Hardware Mfg. Corp., 50 [215 A.D.2d 991] N.Y.2d 183, 190-191, 196, 428 N.Y.S.2d 628, 406 N.E.2d 445; Datlow v. Paleta Intl. Corp., 199 A.D.2d 362, 363, 605 N.Y.S.2d 119).

Page 411

Prefatorily, we note that plaintiffs' complaint asserts that the wrongful acts of defendants were carried out for the purpose of securing an economic advantage over plaintiffs in competing for the acquisition of Central. As an economic purpose is lawful (see, e.g., Slifer-Weickel Inc. v. Meteor Skelly, 140 A.D.2d 320, 322, 527 N.Y.S.2d 553), defendants urge that this allegation constitutes a judicial admission that defendants' alleged wrongful acts were carried out for a legitimate purpose (see, e.g., Matter of Willard v. Haab, 170 A.D.2d 820, 821, 565 N.Y.S.2d 915, lv. denied 78 N.Y.2d 854, 573 N.Y.S.2d 467, 577 N.E.2d 1059) and, therefore, plaintiffs' argument against the grant of summary judgment is limited to whether defendants' activities satisfy the "wrongful means" prong of the test for tortious interference with prospective business relations. We concur with this contention. Wrongful means is defined as "physical violence, fraud or misrepresentation, civil suits and criminal prosecutions, and some degrees of economic pressure" (Guard-Life Corp. v. S. Parker Hardware Mfg. Corp., supra, at 191, 428 N.Y.S.2d 628, 406 N.E.2d...

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    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
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    ...a narrow one. Carvel , 3 N.Y.3d at 190, 785 N.Y.S.2d 359, 818 N.E.2d 1100 (quoting NBT Bancorp, Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Fin. Grp., Inc. , 215 A.D.2d 990, 628 N.Y.S.2d 408 (3d Dep't 1995), aff'd , 87 N.Y.2d 614, 641 N.Y.S.2d 581, 664 N.E.2d 492 (1996) ). "When a defendant has acted with a perm......
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    ...Hardware Mfg. Corp., 50 N.Y.2d 183, 194, 428 N.Y.S.2d 628, 406 N.E.2d 445; NBT Bancorp., Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Financial Group, Inc., 215 A.D.2d 990, 628 N.Y.S.2d 408; Datlow v. Paleta Intl. Corp., 199 A.D.2d 362, 363, 605 N.Y.S.2d 119; West v. Mohawk Commercial Carpets, 183 A.D.2d 182, 185......
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