Texas courts acknowledge that two or more people may conspire against another and, in the process, cause damage to that person. If someone can prove that he or she has suffered damages as a result of others' collusion, that person may file a lawsuit on the basis of civil conspiracy.
Elements of Civil Conspiracy
In order to succeed in court proceedings, a charge of civil conspiracy must include all five of the following elements:
(1) a combination of two or more persons;
(2) the persons seek to accomplish an object or course of action;
(3) the persons reach a meeting of the minds on the object or course of action;
(4) one or more unlawful, overt acts are taken in pursuance of the object or course of action; and
(5) damages occur as a proximate result.
First United Pentecostal Church of Beaumont v. Parker, 514 S.W.3d 214 (Tex. 2017)
Civil conspiracy charges most often challenge termination of employment and other employment-related issues. If an employee believes that he or she has lost a job due to the unlawful purposes or means of at least two people, meaning that they were in agreement about how to harm that plaintiff with false information, a civil conspiracy suit may hold those people liable for their actions. Great Nat. Life Ins. Co. v. Chapa, 377 S.W.2d 632 (Tex. 1964).
What Civil Conspiracy Is Not
Simply talking about another person is not sufficient to be found guilty of civil conspiracy. All parties must be on the same page as to their desired negative impact on the plaintiff. High Road on Dawson v. Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America, Inc., 608 S.W.3d 869 (Tex. App. Houston 14th Dist. 2020), petition for review filed, (Nov. 13, 2020).
The fifth element of civil conspiracy is also critical for the plaintiff to succeed in court. If the plaintiff cannot prove that he or she suffered damages as a result of the action of those conspiring against him or her, then a charge of civil conspiracy will not stand in court. If the plaintiff does not sufficiently prove damages, the trial court may grant a summary judgment against the plaintiff. Agar Corporation, Inc. v. Electro Circuits International, LLC, 580 S.W.3d 136, 141-142 (Tex. 2019).
Liability in Civil Conspiracy
If the plaintiff does successfully prove civil conspiracy, all parties are considered liable. However, all defendants may be found liable, but not all defendants may be assessed damages. For example, a person who participated in the fraud but did not directly harm the plaintiff may be found culpable for civil conspiracy but not liable for damages. Schlumberger Well Surveying Corp. v. Nortex Oil & Gas Corp., 435 S.W.2d 854, 857 (Tex. 1968).
The goal of civil conspiracy is to impose joint and separate liability against those who caused harm by their purposeful actions, providing relief for a plaintiff who has directly suffered damages as a result of the actions of the conspirators.
Working with an attorney experienced in litigation is a wise choice when dealing with civil conspiracy, either as a plaintiff or a defendant.
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