made by defendant Picarazzi in his letters concern the alleged waste of monies on a publicly funded renovation project. The December 4, 1989 letter is styled as a letter from a concerned taxpayer, while the December 18, 1989 letter implies that it was written on behalf of "300 members [of Local 112] who pay N.Y.S. taxes and many of whom live in the Ithaca area." Exhs. B & C attached to Doc. 8. Because the misappropriation of public monies is a subject about which the general public would take an interest, the content, form, and context of defendant's letters support his argument that the issue is one of public concern.
The next issue to be decided under Chapadeau is whether plaintiff has shown that defendant conducted and reported the results of his on-site visit in a "grossly irresponsible manner." Plaintiff contends that defendant made the defamatory statements regarding the training, skill, and craftsmanship of the individuals employed by J & J at the West Hill site "with a high degree of awareness of their probable falsity." This accusation is premised on the fact that Mr. Picarazzi wrote the offending letters, which imply that J & J's employees lack proper training, even though he "personally trained many of the individuals working on the West Hill Fire Department project." See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, Doc. 13, at 9. Defendant argues that plaintiff's allegation that he knew who was employed at the West Hill project is false, and is merely an attempt by plaintiff to create a material issue of fact were none exists. Defendant contends that he did not know who was employed by J & J on the project because no workers were present at the work site when he made his inspection.
Based on a careful review of the record, the court finds that there are insufficient facts from which a jury could find that defendant had substantial reason to doubt the accuracy of the disputed portions of his letters and that he acted in a "grossly irresponsible manner" by printing the information. Although J & J claims that defendant personally trained "half" or "many" of the individuals working on the West Hill Fire Department project, its own description of the vocational and educational background of its employees indicates that only one employee was personally trained by defendant Picarazzi. Affidavit of Ralph Azersky, Doc. 11, at 3-4. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the record indicating that defendant Picarazzi saw J & J's employees when he visited the West Hill site. In sum, "even if [defendant Picarazzi's statements] are ultimately capable of being proved false, such statements were not made with the requisite gross irresponsibility to allow the award of damages." McNally, 764 F. Supp. at 848.
Therefore, defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's three libel causes of action is granted.
The last issue for the court to decide is whether J & J states a cause of action for interference of contract sufficient to defeat defendant's motion for summary judgment on that issue. Plaintiff's fourth cause of action alleges that defendant published the letters at issue "with the intent to induce or force the contractor to breach its subcontract with the plaintiff, J & J." Defendant contends that because the contract between J & J and the contractor was never breached, J & J fails to state a valid cause of action. Defendant cites a number of cases standing for the proposition that "in order for the plaintiff to have a cause of action for tortious interference of contract,. . . there must be a breach of that contract by the other party." Jack L. Inselman & Co. v. F & B Financial Co., 41 N.Y.2d 1078, 1080, 364 N.E.2d 1119, 1120, 396 N.Y.S.2d 347, 349 (1977) (citations omitted); see also Baylis v. Marriott Corp., 906 F.2d 874 (2d Cir. 1990); Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Federated Department Stores, Inc., 723 F. Supp. 976 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that even where there is no actual breach, the plaintiff may show wrongful interference with contract. See S & S Hotel Ventures, Ltd. v. 777 S.H. Corp., 108 A.D.2d 351, 354, 489 N.Y.S.2d 478, 480 (1st Dep't 1985); Goodall v. Columbia Ventures, Inc., 374 F. Supp. 1324, 1332 (S.D.N.Y. 1974).
After reviewing the applicable case law, the court concludes that J & J has failed to state a cause of action for tortious interference of contract and therefore defendant is entitled to summary judgment on the fourth cause of action. Although the case law is somewhat muddled on this point, the New York Court of Appeals has clearly stated that "for the plaintiff to have a cause of action for tortious interference of contract, it is axiomatic that there must be a breach of that contract by the other party." Jack L. Inselman & Co., 396 N.Y.S.2d at 349. The Second Circuit recently acknowledged that principle in Baylis v. Mariott Corp., 906 F.2d at 874, when it held that "under traditional principles of New York law, a party may not recover for tortious inducement of breach of contract without proving that the underlying contract has been breached." Plaintiff did not allege that the contract it had with the architects and general contractor was ever breached, so there is no material issue of fact upon which the parties disagree so as to preclude summary judgment on this cause of action.
In summary, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment in its entirety. The clerk of the court is directed to enter judgement in favor of defendant.
It is So Ordered.
Dated: May 18, 1992, Syracuse, New York
HOWARD G. MUNSON
SR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE