Business Litigation Lawyer
Business tortious interference, often referred to as tortious interference with business relations or tortious interference with contractual relations, is a legal concept that refers to the intentional and unjustified interference by a third party in another party’s business relationships, contracts, or economic interests. This interference is generally aimed at causing harm or disruption to the business operations, contractual agreements, or economic benefits of the affected party.
As an experienced business litigation lawyer – including those who practice at Eric Siegel Law – can explain in greater detail, to prove tortious interference, certain elements need to be established, and the plaintiff must demonstrate that the interference was wrongful and resulted in damages.
Elements of Business Tortious Interference
To establish a claim of business tortious interference, the plaintiff typically needs to demonstrate the following elements:
Existence of a Valid Relationship or Contract: The plaintiff must show that there was an existing business relationship or valid contractual arrangement between the plaintiff and a third party. This relationship could involve an existing contract, ongoing business dealings, or other forms of established economic relationships.
Awareness of the Relationship or Contract: The defendant must have been aware of the existence of the business relationship or contract between the plaintiff and the third party. Mere awareness is not sufficient; the interference must be intentional.
Intentional Interference: The defendant’s actions must have been intentional and purposeful, aimed at disrupting or harming the business relationship or contract. Negligent or accidental interference is generally not sufficient to establish tortious interference.
Improper Motive: The interference must be motivated by improper motives or conducted with malice. Malicious intent might involve actions to gain a competitive advantage, harm the plaintiff, or advance the defendant’s own interests.
Causation and Damages: The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s interference directly caused damage or harm to the plaintiff’s business relationship or contractual arrangement. Damages could include financial losses, lost opportunities, or reputational harm.
Examples and Defenses in Business Tortious Interference
Examples of business tortious interference can vary widely and may include scenarios such as:
A competitor spreading false information about a company’s products to customers, causing a decline in sales.
A supplier pressuring a manufacturer’s customers not to buy from them, leading to a loss of business.
A third party inducing an employee to breach their employment contract with their current employer and join a rival company.
Defenses that might be raised in response to a business tortious interference claim include:
Justification or Privilege: If the defendant had a valid reason or legal justification for interfering in the business relationship, they might argue that their actions were justified.
Freedom of Speech or Competition: In some cases, defendants might argue that their actions were protected under the principles of free speech or healthy competition. However, this defense might not hold if their actions went beyond legitimate competitive practices.
No Intentional Interference: If the interference was not intentional or was purely accidental, the defendant might argue that they did not meet the necessary elements for a tortious interference claim.
Business tortious interference cases can be complex, as they involve assessing the intent, motivations, and consequences of a third party’s actions on a business relationship or contract. Legal advice from experienced attorneys is crucial for both plaintiffs and defendants involved in such cases to understand their rights, obligations, and potential outcomes.