Civil Conspiracy: Everything You Need to Know

The elements of an action for civil conspiracy are the formation and operation of the conspiracy and damage resulting to plaintiff.2 min read

Civil Conspiracy Defined

The elements of an action for civil conspiracy are the formation and operation of the conspiracy and damage resulting to plaintiff from an act or acts done in furtherance of the common design. In such an action the major significance of the conspiracy lies in the fact that it renders each participant in the wrongful act responsible as a joint tortfeasor for all damages ensuing from the wrong, irrespective of whether or not he was a direct actor and regardless of the degree of his activity.'' (Doctors' Co. v. Superior Court (1989) 49 Cal.3d 44, citing Mox Incorporated v. Woods (1927) 202 Cal. 675, 677-78.)' (Id. at 511.)

Conspiracy as a Legal Doctrine

Conspiracy is not a cause of action, but a legal doctrine that imposes liability on persons who, although not actually committing a tort themselves, share with the immediate tortfeasors a common plan or design in its perpetration. By participation in a civil conspiracy, a coconspirator effectively adopts as his or her own the torts of other coconspirators within the ambit of the conspiracy. In this way, a coconspirator incurs tort liability co-equal with the immediate tortfeasors.

Stand Alone Conspiracy

Standing alone, a conspiracy does no harm and engenders no tort liability. It must be activated by the commission of an actual tort. ''A civil conspiracy, however atrocious, does not per se give rise to a cause of action unless a civil wrong has been committed resulting in damage.''

Bare Agreement

A bare agreement among two or more persons to harm a third person cannot injure the latter unless and until acts are actually performed pursuant to the agreement. Therefore, it is the acts done and not the conspiracy to do them which should be regarded as the essence of the civil action.' [para.s] By its nature, tort liability arising from conspiracy presupposes that the coconspirator is legally capable of committing the tort, i.e., that he or she owes a duty to plaintiff recognized by law and is potentially subject to liability for breach of that duty.' (Allied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia Ltd., supra, 7 Cal.4th at 510-11.)

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