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Don't let a tortious interference claim derail your business - III

In a series of posts, we've spent some time examining the economic tort of tortious interference, which involves allegations that one business owner somehow interfered with the existing relationships or contracts of another business owner with the intent of causing them economic harm.

We also examined how there are distinct elements that must be demonstrated in order to bring a tortious interference claim, including the existence of a valid contract or economic expectancy -- something we explored in detail last time. We'll continue these efforts in today's post.

The defendant's knowledge of the contract or business expectancy

A plaintiff must be able to present evidence demonstrating that that the defendant knew of the contract or business expectancy. This is only logical, of course, as a defendant can't be said to have interfered with a contract or business expectancy if they didn't know of its existence.

As to how to answer this question of fact, a plaintiff could submit a statement/writing clearly showing the defendant's knowledge, or evidence showing how such knowledge could have been reasonably inferred from the surrounding circumstances.

It's important to understand that a defendant can be found to have had knowledge of a contract or business expectancy for the purposes of a tortious interference claim if it knew that a contract or business expectancy existed, but didn't believe it was valid.

The defendant's intent to interfere with the contract

There are essentially two avenues through which a defendant's intent to interfere with a contract or business expectancy can be demonstrated:

  • A plaintiff can present evidence showing the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly in the hopes of interfering with the contract or business expectancy
  • A plaintiff can present evidence showing that the defendant acted for other reasons, but did so knowing that interference with the contract or business expectancy was a certainty or a near certainty

We'll conclude this discussion in a future post, examining the remaining elements of a tortious interference claim, including the defendant's actual and improper interference with the contract.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional able to protect your rights and your best interests if you have any concerns regarding commercial litigation.

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