A builder, who owns a construction company, has signed a contract with a landowner to construct an office building on the landowner’s property. The total value of the contract is $12,000,000. Construction is expected to take nine months, and the builder needs to hire construction workers in order to staff the job. Roughly half of the construction workers in the area are members of a labor union. Under applicable law, the builder may not discriminate against union members, but the builder also has no obligation to hire any particular number of union members. When the builder finishes hiring, 20 percent of the workers on the site are union members.
The president of the union believes that the builder has discriminated against union members in hiring. The president therefore orchestrates a publicity campaign against the builder, which has several components.
First, beginning on the first day of construction, the president posts unflattering information about the builder on several major social media platforms. This includes information about the builder’s recent arrest for driving while intoxicated, information about a pending lawsuit against the builder for failing to pay overtime on a previous job, and information about building code violations in one of the builder’s other previous jobs. All of this information is truthful.
Second, the president compiles this information into a full-color booklet, which the president sends to the landowner.
Third, the president organizes a picket line outside the construction site. Each day, the president and a dozen other union members march in front of the site displaying signs that read, “UNSAFE BUILDER,” and, “THIS PROJECT EXPLOITS WORKERS.”
The builder has a personal office in a trailer near the main entrance to the site. The president deliberately places the picket line near the builder’s office so that the builder can see the signs each day.
Finally, the president contacts a sympathetic newspaper reporter who agrees to write several stories about local working conditions in the construction industry. These stories are favorable to the president and unfavorable to both the builder and the landowner.
After the campaign has gone on for two weeks, the landowner terminates the contract with the builder, citing bad publicity and concerns about the builder’s capabilities.
Both the president’s actions and the loss of the contract have caused the builder to experience very high levels of anxiety, embarrassment, and depression, for which the builder seeks psychiatric treatment. The builder now wants to take legal action against the president.
- Does the builder have a claim against the president for intentional infliction of emotional distress? Explain.
- Does the builder have a claim against the president for intentional interference with contract? Explain.