contract if agent "maliciously induc[es] the corporation, as employer, to breach its employment contract with an employee" or the agent's "actions are not taken with justification or in the interest of the corporation"); 2 N.Y. PJI 236-37 (Supp. 1996).
The plaintiff has satisfied the third party element of a claim for tortious interference because she has alleged that the defendants were not acting in good faith as employees of Mount Sinai when they caused her termination. The plaintiff claims that the defendants caused her termination to serve their own self-interest because they wanted to prevent her from revealing possible financial improprieties, and that the defendants used fraudulent means to effect her termination.
Because the plaintiff has adequately stated a claim for tortious interference with contract, the defendants' motion to dismiss this claim is denied.
Finally, the defendants move to strike the plaintiff's claim for punitive damages. The defendants argue that the plaintiff cannot pursue a claim for punitive damages because she has not alleged facts sufficient to establish that the defendants acted with the requisite malice.
Under New York law, punitive damages are permitted for tortious conduct in cases involving "'gross, wanton, or willful fraud or other morally culpable conduct.'" Action S.A. v. Marc Rich & Co., Inc., 951 F.2d 504, 509 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Borkowski v. Borkowski, 39 N.Y.2d 982, 387 N.Y.S.2d 233, 355 N.E.2d 287 (1976)(mem.)); see H & R Indus., Inc. v. Kirshner, 899 F. Supp. 995, 1012 (E.D.N.Y. 1995). Punitive damages are permitted even if the conduct is not directed at the general public. Action S.A., 951 F.2d at 509; H & R Indus., 899 F. Supp. at 1012.
Here, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants willfully and maliciously committed the torts of battery, assault and battery, false imprisonment, and tortious interference with contract, motivated by their desire to prevent the plaintiff from revealing possible financial improprieties and fraud. Whether the plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages under the circumstances alleged in this complaint is a factual issue that cannot be determined on a motion to dismiss. See Palmer v. County of Suffolk, 96 A.D.2d 836, 836, 464 N.Y.S.2d 1019, 1019 (2d Dep't 1983) (reversing lower court's decision to strike plaintiff's punitive damage demand because there were relevant issues of fact). Accordingly, the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiff's claim for punitive damages is denied without prejudice to renewal at the conclusion of discovery.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for battery, assault and battery, and tortious interference with contract and to strike the plaintiff's demand for punitive damages is DENIED. The plaintiff is directed to serve and file an amended complaint within 10 days.
Dated: New York, New York
May 13, 1996
John G. Koeltl
United States District Judge