Competition is the driving force behind our American system of free enterprise. Competition allows markets to work more efficiently by producing cheaper goods and services that satisfy consumers’ needs. However, competition is not without regulations and there are many laws regarding unfair competition.
One of the most common civil causes of action in Florida concerning unfair competition is tortious interference. Tortious interference occurs when a competitor convinces a party having a business relationship with another competitor to breach a contract or duty to the other competitor.
Elements of a Tortious Interference Claim
Under Florida law, there are five elements that must be proven to succeed on a tortious interference with contract claim:
- A valid contract existed between the plaintiff and a third party.
- The defendant knew of the contract.
- The defendant took actions intended to induce a breach or disruption of the contract.
- There was no legal justification for the defendant’s actions.
- Damages resulted.
The interference can be with a single contractual provision. It need not be with the entire contract if the effect denies benefits under the contract to the plaintiff.
For a successful tortious interference claim, the plaintiff must also show that the defendant’s actions actually caused the breach of the contract
Defenses to a Tortious Interference Claim
The following are complete defenses to a tortious interference claim:
- The defendant did not know about the contract.
- The defendant did not intend for its conduct to interfere with the contract.
- The contract would have been breached even without the interfering conduct.
- A valid contract was not in effect when the defendant’s conduct occurred.
- The defendant had legal justification or privilege for its actions.
- Breach did not occur.
These negate necessary elements of a tortious interference claim
Damages for Tortious Interference
Damages for a successful tortious interference with contract claim are economic. The damages are calculated to reasonably compensate the plaintiff for the loss suffered due to the defendant’s interfering conduct.
The settlement of a breach of contract action does not necessarily preclude recovery on a tortious interference claim involving the same contract.
Competition is an expected, common part of business. However, if you believe that someone is improperly interfering with your business relationships, our knowledgeable Florida business litigation lawyers at the Rosenthal Law Group can assist you in determining whether such objectionable conduct constitutes proper economic competition or actionable tortious interference.
Call our offices at (954) 384-9200 today.