In Part 1, we discussed one of the most important regulations on the free market – laws against tortious interference. Laws against tortious interference prevent unethical abuse of the free market’s competitive nature. This is a civil regulation that prohibits third parties from taking certain steps to damage a party to a contract or business relationship.
In Part 1 we showed how businesses can make themselves whole by taking legal action against those individuals or businesses that committed a tort against them. However, not all accusations of tortious interference are to be believed. There have been many cases when contracts were breached and business relationships were damaged without the interference of third parties. In such cases, it would be unethical and legally wrong to seek damages from those third parties since they were not the cause of the damage.
Before exploring how to build a defense against a spurious or erroneous claim of 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?
The allegation of tortious interference refers to a 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 defendant cannot successfully disprove 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 successfully defended against if it can be shown that a third party to a contract or business relationship has not wrongfully interfered with the plaintiff’s contractual or business relationship in such a way that a financial loss for the plaintiff was incurred.
In Part 1, we showed cases of when a tortious interference allegation warranted legal action.
Here are some examples of when a third party can be erroneously accused of tortious interference when no failure or malicious intent damaged a contract or business relationship. In these cases there are no viable grounds for a tortious interference suit:
- A provider offers competitive prices and is unaware of the plaintiff’s existing contract with the buyer. As a result, the buyer of, its own volition, breaches a contract with the plaintiff and starts to use the less expensive provider instead.
- A third party’s unintentional late delivery of a service causes the plaintiff 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 seven years ago, beyond the statute of limitations of four years in the State of Florida.
Note that in each of the above cases, a third-party committing the alleged tort would be the defendant and at least one of the parties to the contract would be the plaintiff(s).
“…not all accusations of tortious interference are to be believed.”
The importance of mounting a solid defense
Damages for a successful tortious interference claim are purely monetary. They can also be substantial. If you are a defendant in a tortious interference case, plaintiffs may claim that you owe them exorbitant sums of money based on contracts and business relationships that have nothing at all to do with you or your business. It is very important to bring in an experienced business lawyer who knows the ins and outs of local and State laws. A good local counsel is your best defense against having to pay for damages that you never caused.
Effective defenses against tortious interference
Mounting a defense against claims of tortious interference in Florida requires certain elements to be in place. If you are a defendant in a tortious interference suit, 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 solid defense against a claim of tortious interference. Note that establishing just one of these factors may be sufficient to have a claim dismissed:
- A breach of a contract or damage to the relationship in question did not occur
- The contract was being breached (or the relationship was being damaged) prior to or at the same time as the defendant’s damaging act. Can also include cases where the defendant’s action occurred first and the contract or relationship was damaged by separate actions of the plaintiff or other party afterward
- The defendant had legal justification for their actions or a specific legal privilege that permitted the action
- No valid contract or substantial business relationship was in effect when the defendant’s act occurred.
- The defendant did not know about the contract or business relationship that was breached or damaged
- The defendant never intended for the damaging act to interfere with the contract or business relationship in question.
- The statute of limitations in Florida is four years counting from the last element constituting the cause of action
If one of the elements above can be proven, and in the absence of evidence provided by the plaintiff proving otherwise, it can be said that the defendant has a strong case for dismissing the claims of tortious interference.
The importance of an attorney
If you or your business has been hit with a tortious interference claim, working with a skilled attorney is absolutely essential. Chances are that the plaintiff has legal representation and will come at you with a well-devised claim that you have disrupted their business and owe them damages.
An experienced lawyer on your side can review your case, advise your business of its rights and what steps to take, gather evidence on your behalf, analyze the content of the plaintiff’s contracts and review their business relationships, negotiate a settlement out of court or aggressively defend you or your business in court.
Hire South Florida Law in you Tortious Interference Case
At South Florida Law, we are committed to protecting businesses from spurious, erroneous or outdated claims of tortious interference. We help our clients get out of unnecessary legal entanglements that can negatively impact profitability. We begin the process by establishing if the plaintiff has a case according to state and local laws. South Florida law has the big firm resources to find evidence and mount solid defenses against those who have named your business as a defendant in a tortious interference suit. This includes litigation and arbitration if required. At the same time, we provide a 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 being blamed for a broken business relationship or a breached contract according to the unwarranted or outdated claims of another business? If so, call South Florida Law today on (954) 900-8885 or reach out to us via our contact form.