Business leaders need to understand the components of a civil conspiracy, a tort in which two or more people agree to work together, with injury caused to another because of the act. This understanding allows them to understand problems in the business world and protect themselves from harm. First, two or more people must plot to do the tortious act. A tortious act is wrongful, causes harm, and may result in a civil lawsuit. Attorneys call the result of a tortious act a tort. A tort is a violation of rights of an individual or business that has been wronged intentionally or by negligence. Common torts include defamation, nuisance, conversion, and negligence.
Second, the parties must agree to act in concert to achieve a tortious act. It is not enough that one person is doing the act and the other only knows about it.
Third, there must be an intention to achieve an unlawful purpose. For example, two people can conspire to commit fraud because it is an intentional act. However, two people cannot conspire to be negligent because negligence, or failure to use reasonable care, is unintentional conduct.
Finally, the actions must cause damage. Just as damage is an element of all torts, it is also an element of the tort of civil conspiracy.
An example of civil conspiracy would be conspiracy to commit fraud. If two people set out to conduct a fraud—for example, selling defective products—then a court can find them liable both for the intentional tort of fraud and for conspiracy to commit fraud.
It is also important to distinguish between the crime of conspiracy and the tort of civil conspiracy. Conspiracy is a crime only if the conspirators seek to commit a criminal offense. Conspiring to commit another tort is in itself a tort.
Since conspiracy requires the intent of two people to work together, the state of mind of each defendant is relevant in proving or disproving the tort of civil conspiracy.