Business litigation often involves allegations that a competitor engaged in unfair competition or business tactics designed to injure the plaintiff's business. Such cases will only be successful, however, if the defendant business has crossed the line between legitimate competitive activity and tortious (or wrongful) conduct.
Not all aggressive competition will be deemed unfair or unlawful; a competitor pursuing its legitimate business interests will generally be permitted to do so without incurring liability. However, when a business or an individual intentionally interferes with your contractual or other business relationship and successfully breaks up the relationship, causing financial loss, liability can arise under a cause of action knows as tortious interference. This common law tort strikes a balance between two competing public policies: the promotion of healthy economic competition and the protection of existing or reasonably certain prospective economic relationships.
A viable claim for tortious interference with contractual relations generally requires a showing of (1) the existence of a contract; (2) the alleged wrongdoer's knowledge of the contract; (3) his or her intentional interference; and (4) damages resulting therefrom.
The elements of tortious interference with prospective business relations are quite similar to the elements of tortious interference with contractual relations: (1) the existence of a business relationship or expectancy; (2) knowledge by the interferor of the relationship or expectancy; (3) an intentional act of interference; (4) proof that the interference caused the harm sustained; and (5) damages to the plaintiff.
While the interferor's knowledge of the contract or business relationship and his intent to interfere with it are requisite elements, actual malice is not. Rather, legal malice—an intent to do harm without justification—will suffice.
Examples of interference include threats, economic coercion, persuasion based on mutual interests, a more attractive contract, false statements, defamation, physical violence, unfair competition, intimidation, unfair competition, bribery and constitutional violations. Where a competitor is merely attempting to further its own business interests through lawful competition, it will usually not be liable for any resulting loss of business by a competitor. In general, actions taken which constitute mere economic competition do not rise to the level of improper interference with a valid existing contract or business relation.
Rhode Island tortious interference attorney Eric Renner - Renner Law helps businesses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts pursue claims against competitors, disgruntled former employees, and others who have tortiously interfered with their existing and prospective business relationships. Renner Law has the wherewithal to address unfair competition directly to protect our clients' valuable business operations.
Renner Law serves tortious interference with contract clients throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts from its Providence, Rhode Island offices. Call (401) 404-5251 or contact Renner Law online today.