What Is Tortious Interference?

Tortious interference, otherwise known as “intentional interference with contractual relations,” is the situation where someone intentionally interferes with or damages another’s business or contractual relationship. This tort applies to contractual relationships, and certain business activities, regardless if they involve a contract.

Tortious interference with contract rights occurs when one party convinces another party to breach a contract, or where the tortfeasor disrupts one of the party’s ability to carry out their obligations under a contract. In effect, preventing the plaintiff from receiving the benefits under the contract as promised.

This commonly occurs when one party induces another party to breach a contract established with a third party. Such conduct is referred to as tortious inducement of breach of contract.

Tortious interference must require actions from an outsider. If an outsider intentionally interferes with the performance of a contract by inducing the contracting party not to perform, then the torfeasor could be held liable for any injury that resulted from the failure to perform.

While the plaintiff may have a cause of action for a breach of contract, the innocent party would not have a claim for tortious interference against the same party. This is because a contracting party is unable to interfere with their own contract.

Tortious Interference with a Business Relationship

Tortious interference with a business relationship occurs when the tortfeasor prevents the plaintiff from successfully establishing or continuing a business relationship.

To illustrate, the torfeasor’s intentional conduct prevents a second party from entering a business relationship with a third party, when such a relationship would have occurred if it were not for the conduct.

Grounds for a Tortious Interference Claim

The basic elements of a tortious inference claim, include:

  • The defendant actually interfered
  • The interference was not proper
  • The plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the interference
  • There was economic expectancy, or a contract existed between the plaintiff and a third party
  • The defendant had knowledge of that contract or expectancy
  • The defendant intended to interfere with the expectancy or the contract

The court will be concerned with whether the defendant had knowledge of a contract or expectancy. If the defendant had no knowledge, then it is impossible for them to have intentionally interfered.

In order to have valid grounds for a tortious interference claim, the plaintiff must have had a valid contract or business relationship with the other party. If the contract or expectancy never existed, the defendant couldn’t have been responsible for a breach.

Do you need further advice regarding tortious interference claims? Contact The Mirkhan Law Firm to speak with an Orange County business litigation attorney!