Interference with Contractual or Business Relations Claims and Defense

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Our Business Lawyers Handle Interference Business Relationship Claims and Interference with Contractual Relationship Claims in Florida

In Florida, interference with contractual or business relations occurs when a business relationship exists between parties; a 3rd party is aware of the relationship, and intentionally interferes in the relationship, causing economic damage to the plaintiff.

Interference with contractual or business relations is referred to by a number of names in Florida. These include: interference with contractual relations, interference with business relations, and tortuous interference with advantageous contractual or business relationship.

Proving Tortuous Interference with Advantageous Contractual or Business Relationship in Florida

In order to prove tortuous interference with an advantageous contractual or business relationship in Florida, a plaintiff must show:

  1. Existence of a business relationship, but evidence of an enforceable contract may not be required;
  2. Knowledge of the relationship on the part of the defendant;
  3. Intentional and unjustified interference with the relationship by the defendant; and
  4. Damage to the plaintiff as a result of the breach of the relationship.

What Is “Intentional Interference” in a Tortuous Interference with Advantageous Contractual or Business Relationship Claim in Florida

Whether a party’s acts are considered “intentional interference” will depend upon the facts and circumstances of every case.  However,  the court will generally consider the following factors:

  • Nature of the actor’s conduct
  • Actor’s motive
  • Interests of the other with which the actor’s conduct interferes
  • The interests sought to be advanced by the actor
  • Public interest of protecting freedom of action of the actor and the contractual interests of the other
  • Proximity or remoteness of the actor’s conduct to the interference
  • Relations between the parties.

What is “Causation” in a claim of Interference with Advantageous Contractual or Business Relationship in Florida

“Causing” a party to breach a contract, or “inducing” a party to breach a contract may demonstrate an intent to interfere. Causing or inducing interference occurs when a 3rd party intentionally and improperly interferes with a business relationship between two other parties. To induce may merely mean to influence a party to choose one course of conduct rather than another. To induce may be by persuasion or intimidation.

Economic Interest is Not a Requirement to Show Intention in a Claim of Tortuous Interference with Advantageous Contractual or Business Relationship

Interference with a contractual or business relationship claim in Florida does not require that the interference was in furtherance, pursuit of money, or an economic advantage. Malice alone may demonstrate unjustified interference. In simple terms, intentional interference does not need to be motivated by economics. Either greed or malice may be accepted in the showing of intention.

Burden of Proof in Tortuous Interference with Advantageous Contractual or Business Relationship Defense in Florida

Once a plaintiff has made his case, alleging interference with an advantageous contractual relationship or business relationship, the burden of proof then shifts to the defendant. The defendant must explain that the interference was mere lawful competition.

Interference with Customer Relations (the “Community at Large”)

In Florida, a plaintiff may bring a cause of action alleging tortious interference with present or prospective customers, but no cause of action exists for tortious interference with a business’s relationship to the community at large. The business relationship in question must be shown as an actual and identifiable understanding or agreement which in all probability would have been completed in the absence of the interference.

This section does not mean that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. It may merely be that based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, there is simply a better cause of action under Florida law for a plaintiff to rely upon in court.

It is very common for an interference with a contractual or business relationship lawyer to include other causes of action in your complaint.

Numerous Interferers & Conspiracy to Interfere

An action for conspiracy to interfere with contractual or business relationships requires a combination of two or more people or business entities to have the common purpose of interference. It is unlikely that the presence of mere additional parties in action, or additional beneficiaries of the interference, will be guilty of Interference with a contractual or business relationship unless some encouragement or action in the interference was present.

Defenses to Interference with a Contractual or Business Relationship

The following are some common defenses that an interference with a contractual or business relationship defense lawyer may use in an answer to a complaint. This is not a complete list. Facts and circumstances will likely bring about numerous other defense claims.

  • Absolute Immunity- Absolute immunity is afforded to any act which occurs during the course of a judicial proceeding. This includes defamatory statements or other tortious behavior, such as tortious interference with a business relationship.  However, the act or words must have at least some relation to the legal proceedings.
  • Legal Acts  & Lawful Competition Which Interfere With Contractual or Business Relations- An act which is legal in itself does not give rise to a claim of tortious business interference when the act violates no right of another person, even when the act is committed from malice or other bad motive. For example, telling the truth about a competitor to his trade partner, which causes that trade partner to cease trading, may not lead to a claim of interference with business or contractual relations; when there is not actual wrongdoing within the claim (such as the information was in fact not true, but false.) If a competitor proves that the interference was lawful competition he will not be found to have committed the tort.
  • Acting in Your Own Best Interest Without a Duty Owed- Breaking a duty owed may create wrongdoing. For example, a contract not to compete may create wrongdoing when the duty is violated. However, absent proof of a duty owed by defendant to plaintiff, a person, or business entity is entitled to conduct its business and legal affairs in a manner determined to be in its own best interests, without regard to a negative effect which may be a result upon another party.

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