Tortious Interference — When Your Business Competition Crosses The Line

Posted on: 23 May 2023


When you go into business, you expect to face competition for customers and business relationships. But what if that competition acts in an unfair way? Do you have any recourse if a competitor does something underhanded or even downright illegal — all to hurt your business? In fact, you do. Here's what you need to know about civil litigation for tortious interference.

What Is Tortious Interference?

In the American legal system, a tort happens when the actions of one party harm another party — intentionally or through negligence. Tortious interference, then, refers to a party improperly interfering with another party's legitimate business activities. Tortious interference takes two forms. The first is tortious interference with a contract, and the second is tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. 

What Does Tortious Interference Look Like?

What do these terms mean in real life? Perhaps you are a beer brewery that has made a valid contract with a local pub to sell your beer. Your closest competitor hears about it and calls up the pub. They threaten to cancel all its existing contracts with them if they don't break the contract with you. The competitor has likely improperly interfered with your contract.

On the other hand, what if you have had a standing contract with the pub for several years? You are in negotiations for a new one, but a new competitor in town calls them up and threatens to get their landlord to evict them if they make a contract with you. Although you have no contract yet, the competitor may have committed tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. 

How Do You Prove Tortious Interference?

Proving tortious interference can be complicated in the modern world. If you sue over it, you will have to prove a number of elements. This includes proving that the other party knew about the business relationship, that they improperly interfered, that the relationship was altered because of their interference, and that you were harmed. 

One of the most difficult elements of this claim is proving that the interference was improper. The opposing side will surely argue that their actions constituted normal and fair competition. The court will also have to walk the fine line between protecting the free operation of businesses and protecting contract and business law. 

Where Can You Learn More?

Do you believe that someone has committed tortious interference with your business operations? If so, start by learning more about this often-unfamiliar business litigation. Meet with a business litigation attorney in your state today to learn more.