Elements of a Successful Tortious Interference Claim
Tortious interference refers to the interference of one party with a contract between the plaintiff and another entity. The interference must have resulted in damages to the plaintiff for the courts to even consider hearing the case. If your business suffered losses as a result of another party’s interference with a contract between your business entity and a client or another party, reach out to our Fort Lauderdale business torts lawyer at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., today to discuss what you need to do to prevail in your case.
The Four Elements of a Tortious Interference Claim
For you to prevail in a tortious interference claim in Florida, you must be able to prove the existence of four elements. According to Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, those four elements are as follows:
- A valid contract existed between you and another party;
- The defendant had knowledge of the contract;
- The defendant’s actions were intentional and improper; and
- You sustained injuries as a result of the defendant’s actions.
The Existence of a Valid Contract
A valid contract between yourself and another party is the basis of your claim. Without a contract that is legally binding by Florida law, the defendant cannot be held liable for damages, as it is impossible for him or her to have committed the tort in question.
Contracts that contain a provision that grants permission to either party to terminate a contract at will create a somewhat more complex situation. Just because either party has the right to exit the agreement whenever he, she, or it sees fit does not mean the defendant had the right to induce that termination. If the defendant knowingly interfered with an at-will contract, and if his or her motive is improper, he, she, or it can still be held liable for tortious interference.
The Defendant Knew of the Contract
A person or entity can only be guilty of this tort if he, she, or it knew of the contractual relationship between the plaintiff and the other party. Without knowledge, the defendant could not have intentionally interfered with the contract or relationship, which negates the existence of the third element.
The Defendant’s Actions Were Intentional and Improper
For tortious interference to apply, the defendant must have acted with intent. Intent can mean one of two things in these cases: First, the defendant must have desired to interfere with the contract or relationship. Second, the defendant may have had another resolve in mind but acted knowing that interference with another existing contract was inevitable.
Not only must the interference have been intentional, but also, it must have been improper. Improper interference implies that the motivation behind the act was illegitimate. This is probably the most difficult element to prove in a tortious interference claim.
Proper interference might occur if Jane refuses to do business with John after learning that John holds a contract with a company that conducts business in a morally unsound manner. Jane, who knows the value of her business, walks away from the deal knowing that doing so is likely to motivate John to terminate his contract with the other business. Jane’s motive here is not improper. Therefore, Jane cannot be found guilty of tortious interference.
However, if Jane acted in such a way simply to put the other organization out of business, she might be held accountable for harms sustained by the other company, as the courts may find her actions to be improper.
Finally, to prevail in a tortious interference claim, you must be able to prove that you sustained damages as a result of the defendant’s interference. If you did not suffer any harm despite the interference, the courts can do nothing to help you.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Business Torts Lawyer
If another party or entity interfered with your contractual or business relationship with another party, and you sustained damages as a result, reach out to the Fort Lauderdale business torts attorneys at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., to discuss your legal options. Contact our office today to schedule your private consultation.