Tortious Interference Part 1 – The Plaintiff’s Case

One of the most important regulations on the free market involves laws on tortious interference. Laws against tortious interference prevent unethical abuse of the free market’s competitive nature. This is a civil (non-criminal) regulation that prohibits third parties from taking certain steps to damage a party to a contract or business relationship.  

Before exploring how to build a case for tortious interference, it is important to understand what it is and see some examples of what specific scenarios might look like.

What is tortious interference?

Tortious interference is a type of tort or non-criminal act that damages another party in such a way that there is a case for civil legal action against the party that committed the tort.  Therefore in lieu of criminal penalties; if the plaintiff can successfully prove a tortious interference case in court then monetary damages will need to be paid by the defendant to the plaintiff.

In the State of Florida, torts can be brought to court when a third party to a contract or business relationship wrongfully interfered with the plaintiff’s contractual or business relationship in such a way that a financial loss for the plaintiff was incurred.

Here are some examples of when a third party has either through failure or malicious intent damaged a contract or business relationship resulting in viable grounds for a tortious interference suit:

  • A provider offers competitive prices so low to a buyer that they are below the provider’s costs to provide the goods or services. As a result, the buyer breaches a contract with the plaintiff and starts to use the infringing provider instead.
  • A third party’s deliberate failure or refusal to perform a duty or obligation (eg: delivery of a service) causes a business to, in turn, fail to satisfy its own contractual obligations.
  • The use of blackmail, slander or libel by a third party causes a contract to be canceled or a business relationship to go south

Note that in each of the above cases, a third-party committing the tort would be the defendant and at least one of the parties to the contract would be the plaintiff(s). 

“Laws against tortious interference prevent the unethical abuse of the free market’s competitive nature.”

Building the Case for Tortious Interference

Bringing forth a tortious interference case in Florida requires certain elements to be in place. If you are considering a tortious interference suit against a defendant, it is highly recommended that you hire a local attorney with experience handling similar tortious interference cases.

Here are the specific elements that your attorney will need to present in order to establish a case for tortious interference.  Note that all of these factors will need to have been in place prior to the case being successfully made:

  • The defendant who committed the tort was aware of the contract or the relationship in question
  • The defendant’s actions were intended to damage the relationship or cause at least one party to breach the contract
  • The defendant’s actions were not justified by some privilege or authority to act in the capacity in which they did
  • The plaintiff and another party had a business contract or advantageous business relationship that existed prior to the tort
  • The plaintiff suffered real monetary damages as a direct result of the actions taken by the defendant
  • The plaintiff’s actions were the cause of the damage to the business relationship and/or the breach of contract

Once each of the elements above can be proven, and in the absence of evidence provided by the defense proving otherwise, it can be said that the plaintiff has a strong case for tortious interference.

What is the statute of limitations

In the State of Florida, tortious interference cases must be brought within four years of the last known tortious act that the defendant is accused of committing.  If you feel that you or your business has been the victim of tortious interference, then take action quickly – and be sure to do so with an experienced local business attorney. 

The importance of an attorney

It is essential not to attempt to represent yourself as the plaintiff in a tortious interference case.  This includes communicating with the party that committed the tort, once you decide that legal action is the course you intend to take. Abraham Lincoln once was quoted as saying that “he who represents himself has a fool as a client”. If you are bringing a tortious interference case to court you will need aggressive representation and advice of your specific rights and options under the law.

A skilled attorney is absolutely essential to determine if you have a viable case, what your legal options are to redress the situation (negotiation, mediation, litigation, etc), what compensation you are likely to receive and what evidence there is to support your claims.

See Part 2 of this series, featuring was to defend against claims of tortious interference.

Hire South Florida Law in you Tortious Interference Case

At South Florida Law, we are committed to protecting businesses from tortious acts and taking aggressive legal action when they are found to be victims of tortious interference.  We help our clients avoid unnecessary legal actions that can negatively impact profitability.  We begin the process by establishing if the client has a case according to state and local laws.  South Florida law has the big firm resources to find evidence and, if necessary, take action against those who have harmed your business.  This includes litigation and arbitration if required. At the same time, we provide personalized service and attention to detail in your case at a price point that can only be achieved with a boutique firm of our size.  Is your company faced with challenges related to tortious interference? Are you faced with a broken business relationship or a breached contract due to the actions of a third party? If so, call South Florida Law today on (954) 900-8885 or reach out to us via our contact form.

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