Is Conspiracy an Independent Tort ?
In Doctors' Co. v. Superior Court (1989) 49 Cal.3d 39, the California Supreme Court held:
" A cause of action for civil conspiracy may not arise ... if the alleged conspirator, though a participant in the agreement underlying the injury, was not personally bound by the duty violated by the wrongdoing ... ." (Id. at p. 44.)
Thus, in Doctors' Company, attorneys and expert witnesses hired by an insurance company could not be held liable for conspiring with the insurance company to violate a statutory duty owed only by the insurance company. (Id. at p. 49.)
The rule established by Doctors' Company is plain enough. But it was firmly cemented into our law in Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia Ltd. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 503.
"The invocation of conspiracy does not alter the fundamental allocation of duty. Conspiracy is not an independent tort; it cannot create a duty or abrogate an immunity. It allows tort recovery only against a party who already owes the duty and is not immune from liablility based on applicable substantive tort law principles." (Id. at p. 514.)