If a third party willfully and intentionally interfered with your contract and you suffered damages, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against the third party. This is called a “tortious interference” lawsuit.
A tortious interference claim requires the interference with the contract to be wrongful, improper or illegal. For example, the third party must have committed fraud or misrepresentation, misappropriated a trade secret, violated a noncompete agreement or engaged in some other form of wrongful or illegal activity when they interfered with your contract.
That is to say, the actions taken must go further than enthusiastic competition. The business world is a competitive world, and it is not enough to claim that the other party was a tough competitor. Also, the party must have acted intentionally, not negligently.
Basic elements of a tortious interference claim
In order to bring a tortious interference claim at all, you must be able to show that:
- There was a valid contract in place or, in some cases, a prospective contract or business relationship
- The defendant had knowledge of that contract or relationship
- The defendant intentionally interfered with the contract or relationship
- The defendant succeeded in interfering with the contract or relationship
- The interference involved wrongdoing or impropriety, not mere competitiveness
- You actually suffered damages
Tortious interference claims are not appropriate in situations where a competitor outbid you, for example, unless they obtained proprietary information in order to do so. Similarly, you can’t sue for tortious interference if you didn’t lose any money due to the interference.
In the right circumstances, a tortious interference claim can allow you to right a serious wrong and obtain compensation for your losses. These claims do require evidence of actual impropriety or illegality, however, and may not be appropriate in all circumstances.
If you believe a third party wrongfully and intentionally interfered with your contract or business relationship, now is the time to talk to an experienced business law attorney.