Yes, Contractual Interference is a Cause of Action
Tortious interference, also known as intentional interference with contractual relations, is a common law cause of action. Common law causes of action are man-made laws that arise from court decisions. In other words, this cause of action is not statutory. Tortious interference allows claims for damages against defendants who intentionally interfere with the plaintiff’s contractual or business relationships. The intentionality of the interference is a key to this cause of action. The contractual or business relationship that was interfered upon must cause some kind of economic harm. An example of economic harm in this case is the reduction of goods sold as a result of an individual defaming the name of the seller of goods. In Florida, the full cause of action is referred to as tortious interference with advantageous business relationship. Some jurisdictions permit a similar cause of action called negligent interference, where the intentionality requirement is reduced to the lesser standard of negligence.
Elements of Tortious Interference
There are a number of factors or “elements” that are required to substantiate a tortious interference claim. In Florida, a plaintiff may file a claim for tortious interference if (1) there exists a business or contractual relationship, (2) the defendant had knowledge of the relationship, (3) the defendant intentionally interfered with the relationship, and (4) the interference caused a breach of the relationship which causes damages (frequently economic damages). The second element of tortious interference is probably the one element that causes claims to fail. Although a third party interfered in your contractual relationship, there is no standing to file a claim if the third party did not have any knowledge of the existence of the relationship. Suffering damages based on the actions of a third party does not provide a cause of action if the third party wasn’t aware of the nature of your business dealings. Intentionality is also an important element when assessing all the moving parts. It may be the hardest piece to prove, if solid evidence of interference is not available.
Defenses to Tortious Interference
The best way to defend against a tortious interference claim is to attack the evidence the plaintiff provides. This is the strategy used with any cause of action requiring the existence of fact-based elements. For example, if a defendant wants to prove that his or her actions did not lead to the damages suffered by the plaintiff l, he or she would provide evidence proving that another cause resulted in the plaintiff’s loss. Additionally, the defendant can show evidence that he or she had zero knowledge of the plaintiff’s business relationship. Further, the defendant can show that the economic damage the plaintiff suffered was a result of another person’s actions or the damages suffered did not implicate the business relationship in question.
Fort Lauderdale Business Attorney
Attorney Brendan A. Sweeney has years of experience advising and assisting individuals with their business litigation needs. If an individual or entity has intentionally interfered with your advantageous business relationship, then you need to explore your legal options. Attorney Sweeney provides individualized advice and services to suit your business needs. Contact us now for a consultation.