Where Personal Meets Professional:  The Difficulties of Proving Tortious Interference by Clients in the Firm Environment

Author: Bradley Dunkle, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Carol Sparks Drake, an Indiana attorney, recently saw her home and work lives collide in a most unfortunate manner.  For more than twenty years, Drake worked as a partner in the law firm of Parr Richey Obremskey & Morton (“Parr Richey”).  However, in 2006, the partners reconstituted the partnership, electing to leave Drake out.[i] Why did the partners of Parr Richey choose to cut out this long term partner despite Drake’s impression that “none of the partners had indicated in any way that [her] future with the firm was in any jeopardy?”[ii] Drake’s dispute with Duke Realty, a Parr Richey client, over land use near her family residence, a forty-six acre farm in Boone County, Indiana, appears to be the answer.[iii] Although Drake’s contract with Parr Richey could be terminated at-will, she claims that Duke Realty impermissibly interfered with her employment contract and influenced Parr Richey to terminate her.[iv] The Indiana Supreme Court’s determination in Drake v. Dickey that a third party can tortuously interfere with an employment contract could prove important in determining how much influence clients have on businesses.[v]

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