Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Petitioner beer importer sought mandate relief from an order of respondent, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which denied the importer’s motion for summary judgment on causes of action asserted by real party in interest, an unsuccessful buyer of a beer distributorship, for intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage.

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The importer had a contractual right to disapprove a sale of the distributorship and did so. Noting that a wrongful act did not have to be directed toward the party asserting the claims for interference, the court held that the importer was entitled to summary judgment because the buyer failed to establish that the denial of approval was an independently wrongful act. Even if the denial of approval might have been unreasonable, the importer could lawfully make that choice under Bus. & Prof. Code, § 25000.9, which did not prohibit an unreasonable denial but merely provided a remedy to the seller. Thus, because unreasonably withholding consent to a distributorship sale was specifically permitted where the seller received compensation, Bus. & Prof. Code, § 23300, as the more general statute, could not be read to make the importer’s decision a wrongful exercise of the rights of a distributor. A fraudulent concealment argument lacked merit because the denial of approval was not itself fraudulent, even if the importer previously had concealed its intent to disapprove the transfer; moreover, the buyer failed to plead fraudulent concealment as an independently wrongful act.


The court issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order denying the importer’s motion for summary judgment and to enter a new and different order granting the motion