Competition in business can get fierce. When an individual or business unethically takes competition too far and unlawfully interferes with your business to damage it or prevent contract obligations as promised, this is considered tortious interference. Businesses who have experienced tortious interference can seek compensation for their losses in civil court.
Texas Tortious Interference Claims: Contracts vs. Business
Depending on the nature of interference, tortious interference claims in business relationships can take two different forms – interference of existing contracts or interference of prospective business relations
- Tortious interference of contracts: When a person intentionally disrupts a formal contract between two parties and causes one party to breach the contract or otherwise violate the terms of the relationship. To prove tortious interference with an existing contract, you must show that a contract exists, a third party interfered with the contract and you suffered damages as a result.
- Tortious interference of prospective business: When a third party uses false claims or other illegal means against you or your business to intentionally drive business away or to cause another party to not enter into a business relationship with you. To prove tortious interference with prospective business relations there must be reasonable probability that you (the plaintiff) would have entered into a business relationship with a third person had the “defendant” not interfered, and as a result you suffered damages.
Examples of Tortious Interference:
- Blackmail, threaten, force or influence someone into violating a contract
- Blackmail, threaten, force or influence someone into not doing business with another business they otherwise would
- Offering below market prices to induce a breach of contract
- Obstructing someone's ability to honor a contract with a client by deliberately refusing to deliver necessary goods.
- Knowingly interfering with a contractor's or other third party's ability to perform his/her contractual obligations
- Intentional or unlawful acts to prevent someone from successfully establishing or maintaining business relationships with others.
- Violating non-compete or confidentiality agreements
Defense Against a Tortious Interference Claim or Accusation
Possible defenses for tortious interference of contracts and prospective business relationships include “justification”. The justification defense can be based on either the exercise of one’s own legal rights or a good-faith claim (to a colorable legal right in good faith to interfere).
For example, in a non-compete violation case, the defendant can prove justification by showing:
- Exercise of one’s own legal rights: The non-compete is legally unenforceable
- Good Faith to a colorable (plausible) legal right: The defendant had a good faith, even if mistaken, that the non-compete was legally unenforceable or present that he/she in good-faith reasonably believed that the company did not provide confidential information OR that the non-compete is unreasonably broad.
Texas Tortious Interference Legal Representation and Defense
Businesses of all shapes and sizes find themselves in increasingly complex contractual relationships, and resolving disputes through litigation demands a multifaceted approach. At Hendershot Cowart P.C., we draw from a combined 150+ years of experience in commercial litigation, enabling us to effectively and cost-efficiently guide our clients through the litigation process, no matter the nature of their dispute or business law issue.
Like most civil lawsuits, there is a time limit to file a claim for tortious interference with contract, which is two years from the date of which the alleged act of interference occurred. Don’t wait to get the help you need. Call (713) 909-7323 to schedule a consultation with one of our award-winning business attorneys.