Types of Tortious Interference
- Interference with Contractual Relations This happens when an external party deliberately disrupts an existing contract.
For instance, if a competitor convinces a client to break a contract with your company to switch to theirs, this may constitute interference with contractual relations.
- Interference with Business Expectancies This form does not involve an existing contract but rather a business relationship that’s expected to be economically beneficial.
If someone disrupts a deal you’re about to close or harms a non-contractual partnership that damages your business prospects, it could be considered interference with business expectancies.
- Distinctions Between the Two Types The main difference lies in the existence of a contract. With contractual relations, the interference targets a binding agreement.
In contrast, with business expectancies, the focus is on the potential for economic gain, not protected by a formal contract, but recognized by business norms and potentially backed by prior dealings or clear communications of intent.
Recognizing the Signs of Interference
Recognizing the signs of tortious interference is essential for taking timely action to protect your legal rights and interests. Here are key indicators that may signal such interference:
- Unexpected Contract Breach: If a third party suddenly breaks off a contractual agreement without a clear explanation or due to suspicious reasons, this could be a sign of interference.
- Unusual Business Relations Strain: You might notice a sudden and unexplainable strain in business relationships that were previously positive and productive.
- Competitor Overreach: If a competitor is reaching out to your clients or partners with the intent to divert business, this may be an attempt at interference.
- Disruption of Deals: Deals that were nearing completion abruptly falling apart without a satisfactory reason can indicate interference.
- Defamation: If there are false claims or malicious statements being made about your business to clients or partners, it might be an attempt to harm your business relationships.
- Unexplained Decline in Business: A sudden and inexplicable decline in business, especially if it can be linked back to the actions of a specific party, may suggest interference.
- Unusual Third Party Behavior: Third parties that act out of character, such as suppliers who delay shipments without reason or clients who backtrack on commitments, might be doing so due to external pressures.
Identifying these indicators quickly is crucial for dealing with tortious interference and taking legal action to safeguard your business.
Q&A about Tortious Interference
- What is Tortious Interference?
Tortious interference occurs when a third party intentionally damages the business relationships or contracts that you have with others, resulting in economic harm.
- What Must Be Proven in a Tortious Interference Claim?
You must prove that there was a valid contract or business expectancy, the interferer knew of the relationship, intentionally acted to disrupt it, caused the disruption, and that damages resulted from the interference.
- How Do I Know If My Business Is a Victim of Tortious Interference?
Look for unexplained disruptions in business relationships, sudden contract cancellations, or partners receiving misinformation about your business that might discourage them from continuing their association with you.
- What Should I Do If I Suspect Tortious Interference?
Document all evidence of interference and contact a lawyer to assess your case. Avoid any retaliation or direct confrontation with the alleged interferer.
- Can I Sue for Tortious Interference Without a Written Contract?
Yes, if there is a proven business expectancy that is economically advantageous to you, even in the absence of a written contract.
- What Are the Possible Damages for Tortious Interference?
Damages may include lost profits, loss of business relationships, and sometimes punitive damages if the interference was particularly malicious.
- How Long Do I Have to File a Tortious Interference Claim?
The statute of limitations varies by jurisdiction but typically ranges from one to three years from the date the interference occurred.
- Can I Claim Tortious Interference If the Contract Was At-Will?
Yes, although it’s more challenging, you can still claim tortious interference if you can demonstrate that the interference was intentional and malicious.
- What Defenses Are Available Against a Tortious Interference Claim?
Common defenses include arguing that the interference was justified or permissible, that no actual harm was done, or that the actions were not intentional.
- How Can a Lawyer Help with Tortious Interference?
A lawyer can help by providing legal strategy, proving your claims, negotiating settlements, or representing you in court.
- Is Tortious Interference a Criminal Offense?
No, tortious interference is a civil matter, not a criminal one. It deals with damages to civil relationships rather than criminal penalties.
- Can Tortious Interference Occur in Employment Situations?
Yes, it can occur if someone intentionally disrupts the employment relationship you have with an employee or employer to cause harm.
If you believe that your business relationships have been wrongfully disrupted, our legal team is here to help. Contact us at (212) 457-9797 or via email email@example.com for legal guidance.
Resources and Samples
- Tortious Interference With Contractual Relations
- Tortious Interference with Contract: Elements
- Tort — Intentional Interference With An Inheritance Or Gift — Cause Of Action
- Elements Of A Claim For Intentional Interference With Economic Relations
- Tortious Interference: The Limits of Common Law Liability for Newsgathering
- Tort Law—Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy
- Interference with Contractual Relations: A Common Measure of Damages
- Attorney Liability for Tortious Interference
- The Business of Law and Tortious Interference
- Tortious Interference and the Law of Contract