Updated November 19, 2020:

A tortious interference with business relationship Florida occurs when a third party to a contract or a business agreement intentionally interferes with or disrupts that contract or business relationship. Under the law, a third party may not interfere with current or pending business transactions between parties in an existing business relationship. If so, the situation could result in a major lawsuit.

Tortious interference can look like many different things. Some examples would be if a business owner sued a former employee to enforce a noncompetition contract, a condo owner posted a fake "For Sale" signs to deter a sale of a neighboring condo, or a person knowingly presented false information about a business to deter customers from frequenting it.

Proving a Tortious Interference Claim

To prove tortious interference, the plaintiff must prove the following elements were present:

  • A business relationship (or even potential for a business relationship), either advantageous or contractual, existed with another party.
  • The defendant knew about the business relationship.
  • The defendant purposely and unjustly disrupted or interfered with the business relationship.
  • As a direct result of the disruption, damages occurred.

Defending a Tortious Interference Claim

Defending a tortious interference claim may include the following:

  • The defendant did not know about the business relationship, agreement, or contract.
  • The defendant did not purposely act with the intent of interfering or disrupting the relationship or the contract.
  • The contract would have been breached regardless of the disruption.
  • There was no valid contract or business relationship in existence when the defendant's interference took place.
  • The defendant had legal justification for his or her action.
  • The contract was not breached.

Tortious Interference in Florida

Under Florida law, two forms of relationships may be subject to tortious interference:

  • Contractual business relationships.
  • Advantageous business relationships.

A contractual business relationship is one that is created by a contract between two or more parties, such as:

  • Noncompete agreements
  • Sales agreements
  • Nondisclosure agreements.

As it must be proven that the person who allegedly interfered knew about the business relationship, cases of tortious interference related to contractual business relationships may be easier to prove. In some instances, contracts must be made publicly available for review or comment.

The definition of an advantageous business relationship is harder to determine, but it may include situations such as a sales relationship with a vendor or customer. It may be harder for third parties to know whether a business relationship or potential for a relationship exists, which may make it more difficult to prove that the defendant knew about the relationship.

In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years. When the last element of the cause of action transpires, the limitations period begins to run.

Results of a Successful Tortious Interference Claim

A plaintiff of tortious interference may experience hardships such as:

  • Loss of profits
  • Loss of business
  • Possibly harm to reputation
  • Emotional distress.

In Florida, the plaintiff may have rights to the recovery of damages he or she has incurred by pursuing legal action.

A successful tortious interference claim will result solely in economic damages. The economic loss the plaintiff suffered will be calculated, and any damages awarded will be to compensate for such losses. When there is uncertainty as to the exact amount of damages, or difficulty in proving the exact amount, the evidence of substantial damages and reasonable basis for the amount awarded will suffice for recovery. In this case, a damage analysis must be supported by the testimony of an:

  • Accountant
  • Economist
  • Other business forensic analyst.

If the defendant proves the disruption or interference was actually lawful business competition, he or she will not be found guilty of tortious interference. In addition, there will be no basis for recovery of legal fees associated with the case of tortious interference. As such, the prosecution and the defense of a tortious interference claim can be expensive. Damage claims will require additional expert testimony, which will further raise litigation costs.

A breach of contract action may be settled, which does not necessarily affect recovery on a tortious interference claim related to the same business agreement. As such, a plaintiff may not add recovery for tortious interference with an additional claim for conspiracy to breach a contract.

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