Naum_Estevez_Civil_Conspiracy_Civil_Litigation

Virginia Code § 18.2-499 and 19.2-500, together, make it a crime and a tort to conspire to injure another in their reputation, trade, business or profession.

What is the Virginia criminal conspiracy law to injury reputation in Virginia?

Virginia Code § 18.2-499 states that:

A.     Any two or more persons who combine, associate, agree, mutually undertake or concert together for the purpose of (i) willfully and maliciously injuring another in his reputation, trade, business or profession by any means whatever or (ii) willfully and maliciously compelling another to do or perform any act against his will, or preventing or hindering another from doing or performing any lawful act, shall be jointly and severally guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Such punishment shall be in addition to any civil relief recoverable under § 18.2-500.

B.     Any person who attempts to procure the participation, cooperation, agreement or other assistance of any one or more persons to enter into any combination, association, agreement, mutual understanding or concert prohibited in subsection A of this section shall be guilty of a violation of this section and subject to the same penalties set out in subsection A.

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-499 (West)


What is the Virginia criminal conspiracy law to injury reputation in Virginia?

Virginia Code § 18.2-500 states that:

A.     Any person who shall be injured in his reputation, trade, business or profession by reason of a violation of § 18.2-499, may sue therefor and recover three-fold the damages by him sustained, and the costs of suit, including a reasonable fee to plaintiff's counsel, and without limiting the generality of the term, “damages” shall include loss of profits.

B.     Whenever a person shall duly file a civil action in the circuit court of any county or city against any person alleging violations of the provisions of § 18.2-499 and praying that such party defendant be restrained and enjoined from continuing the acts complained of, such court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the issues involved, to issue injunctions pendente lite and permanent injunctions and to decree damages and costs of suit, including reasonable counsel fees to complainants' and defendants' counsel.

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-500 (West)


Can I sue someone for injuring my reputation in Virginia?

Yes. To establish a claim for business conspiracy, under Virginia law, the plaintiff must prove that there was: (1) a combination of two or more persons, (2) for the purpose of willfully and maliciously injuring the plaintiff in reputation, trade, business or profession, (3) resulting in damage to the plaintiff.  CVLR Performance Horses, Inc. v. Wynne, 977 F.Supp.2d 598 (2013).


What does it mean to be sued for conspiracy to injury someone in their trade, business or reputation?

The objective of the cause of action created by the Virginia statute which makes it illegal for two or more persons to conspire for the purpose of wilfully and maliciously injuring another in his reputation, trade, business or profession is to provide a remedy for wrongful conduct directed toward one's business, including injury to one's property interest.  Code Va.1950, §§ 18.2-499, 18.2-499(a), 18.2-500, 18.2-500(a).  Picture Lake Campground, Inc. v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 1980, 497 F.Supp. 858.


What do I have to prove to win a case for conspiracy to injury someone in their trade, business or reputation?

Virginia's business conspiracy statute, as with common law civil conspiracy, requires proof that the defendants have combined to accomplish some purpose, not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means.  Shirvinski v. U.S. Coast Guard, 2012, 673 F.3d 308.

While injury to plaintiff's trade or business need not be conspirator's primary and overriding purpose, in order to support civil action for business conspiracy under the Virginia Conspiracy Act, it must be proven to be one of the purposes of conspiracy.  In re Wellington Apartment, LLC, 2006, 350 B.R. 213.

In civil action under the Virginia Conspiracy Act, plaintiff must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that defendants acted in concert with legal malice, and that plaintiff suffered causally-related injury.  In re Wellington Apartment, LLC, 2006, 350 B.R. 213.

A plaintiff is not required to prove actual malice with regard to statutory conspiracy in Virginia.  Galaxy Computer Services, Inc. v. Baker, 2005, 325 B.R. 544, new trial denied 2005 WL 2171454.

 “Legal malice,” of kind required to support civil action under the Virginia Conspiracy Act, may be found where defendant acted intentionally, willfully and knowingly.  In re Wellington Apartment, LLC, 2006, 350 B.R. 213.  Conspiracy Key Number 1.1

Evidence of accountants' legal malice towards client's business was required for recovery on business conspiracy claim, under Virginia statute.  Rogers v. Deane, 2014, 594 Fed.Appx. 768, 2014 WL 5753849.


Do I have to prove damages?

Actions for common law civil conspiracy and statutory business conspiracy lie only if a plaintiff sustains damages as a result of an act that is itself wrongful or tortious.  Dunlap v. Cottman Transmission Systems, LLC, 2014, 754 S.E.2d 313, 287 Va. 207, answer to certified question conformed to 576 Fed.Appx. 225, 2014 WL 2854782, on remand 2015 WL 12804277.


How certain do damages have to be to win a case under Virginia’s conspiracy to injury business statute?

Under Virginia law, conspiracy statutes, which made it illegal to conspire to injure person in his business and provided civil remedies for such violations, do not apply to injuries to an unspecified future business.  Warner v. Buck Creek Nursery, Inc., 2001, 149 F.Supp.2d 246.

Statutes governing conspiracy to cause injury to reputation, trade, business, or profession apply to business and property interests, not to personal or employment interests.  Andrews v. Ring, 2003, 585 S.E.2d 780, 266 Va. 311.


Can I sue a city, county or state government in the Commonwealth for injuring my reputation?

A city may be beyond scope of Virginia Conspiracy Act if the challenged activities were performed by public officials within scope of their employment.  Va.Code 1950, § 18.2-499.  Reasor v. City of Norfolk, Va., 1984, 606 F.Supp. 788.


What defenses are available to a Virginia conspiracy to injure reputation lawsuit?

Under Virginia law, the intracorporate immunity doctrine holds that a conspiracy between a corporation and agents of that corporation acting within the scope of their employment is a legal impossibility.  Phoenix Renovation Corp. v. Rodriguez, 2005, 403 F.Supp.2d 510.


Are there limits to the intracorporate immunity doctrine?

Virginia intracorporate immunity doctrine barred former employee's claim against former employer, its officers, and others under Virginia civil conspiracy statute in the absence of any allegation that individual defendants were dominated by personal motives or that actions of individual defendants somehow exceeded scope of their employment.  Va.Code 1950, §§ 18.2-499, 18.2-500.  Selman v. American Sports Underwriters, Inc., 1988, 697 F.Supp. 225.


Can I sue someone who defamed me in court?

Statute providing that no individual shall be prosecuted for any transaction concerning which he may testify in suit for injury to trade or business does not withdraw subject-matter jurisdiction, but affords defense of immunity, which may be waived by failure to invoke immunity when prosecution is begun.  Code 1950, §§ 18.2-500, 18.2-501.  Evans v. Com., 1983, 308 S.E.2d 126, 226 Va. 292.


What is the burden of proof in a case under Virginia’s conspiracy to injury reputation in trade or business statute?

 Civil plaintiff bears burden of proving violation of Virginia Conspiracy Act by clear and convincing evidence.  Virginia Vermiculite, Ltd. v. W.R. Grace & Co.--Conn., 2001, 144 F.Supp.2d 558, affirmed on other grounds 307 F.3d 277, certiorari denied 123 S.Ct. 1900, 538 U.S. 998, 155 L.Ed.2d 824.


Can a co-worker conspire with my boss to try to injure my reputation?

Under Virginia law, agent cannot conspire with its principal.  Michigan Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smoot, 2000, 129 F.Supp.2d 912.


What about defamation? How can I also file a lawsuit for defamation in Virginia?

When private individual brings suit for defamatory words involving no matters of public concern, compensatory damages for injury to reputation, humiliation, and embarrassment are presumed if the words are found to be actionable per se at common law, but the individual must prove negligence as a predicate for recovery, even if the words are actionable per se.  Levine v. McLeskey, 1995, 881 F.Supp. 1030, affirmed in part, vacated in part 164 F.3d 210.