Houston Business Tort Attorneys
Representing Wronged Businesses Throughout Texas
Not everything in business goes as planned. That’s especially true when it comes to the complex and often high stakes relationships and transactions businesses enter into with other parties that have the potential to harm their interests. Fortunately, the civil justice system is designed to handle these private matters by allowing businesses that suffer losses as a result of civil wrongs, known as “torts,” to seek accountability and legal remedy via a civil tort.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., our Texas trial attorneys represent wronged businesses that wish to pursue legal action for all types of business torts, as well as businesses which must defend themselves against claims and liability. To our peers and our opponents, we have earned a reputation as proven professionals who fight intelligently and aggressively on behalf of clients, and who are equipped with the breadth of experience and resources to pursue positive resolutions in a range of matters.
On This Page
- What Are Business Torts?
- Tortious Interference Claims
- Protect Your Rights
What Are Business Torts?
Unlike other civil torts, including those involving injury to a person or property, business torts involve wrongs which cause (or are likely to cause) some type of harm to business interests. This may include a loss of business relationships or opportunities, loss of clients, reputation harm, and more.
Contracts and Torts
In business law, torts differ from contract disputes in that common law, rather than a written agreement, provides the rules for liability arising from wrongs committed by an individual or entity against a business.
This means there must be a few essential elements present in order to bring a civil business action, or business tort, against a defendant. These essential elements of torts include:
- Duty to act
- Breach of duty
Types of Business Law Torts
There are a number of business torts plaintiffs may bring against an alleged offender. Common examples include:
- Fraud and Misrepresentation – Fraud and misrepresentation cases require plaintiffs to prove that another party intentionally misrepresented a material fact, which they relied on and, as a result, suffered harm. Torts may also arise from negligent misrepresentation.
- Tortious Interference – Tortious interference occurs when an individual or entity unlawfully interferes with a plaintiff’s business interests, including contractual relations and prospective business. Plaintiffs who bring these actions must prove the defendant’s actions exceeded what would be considered “fair” competition, such as threatening a third party to not do business with a competitor.
- Theft of Trade Secrets – Theft of trade secrets occurs when an individual or entity (such as a former employee, contractor, or competitor) unlawfully obtains and uses confidential business information to the detriment of that business. This tort can involve disputes over whether or not information is truly a “trade secret,” and whether or not businesses took reasonable steps to keep that information confidential.
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty – Fiduciaries have legal obligations to act in the best interests of another party, such as the duty company board members owe to shareholders. A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when those parties fail to act in accordance to that duty, and can provide wronged parties with a recovery of damages or other remedies through a breach of duty tort.
Backed by over 100 years of collective experience, our legal team is prepared to bring and defend against these and a range of other business torts, including unfair competition, injurious falsehood (commercial disparagement), conversion of stock, unjust enrichment restraint of trade, civil conspiracy, and more. We are also available to help minority shareholders explore their options for pursuing claims over shareholder oppression following Texas’ landmark ruling to strike down the common law cause of action.
Remedies in Tort Law
While every case is unique, business torts generally provide wronged businesses with the opportunity to secure remedies through the court. These may include:
- Damages, including actual damages caused by lost profits
- Punitive Damages, which can be pursued in some cases, and particularly those involving malice or fraud.
- Equitable Remedies, which may include injunctions to stop injurious actions, fee forfeiture, profit disgorgement, an accounting, a rescission, a court-appointed receiver or removal of trustee, and a “hold” on funds or property.
One prevailing aspect in business torts is the complexity of seeking the most appropriate remedy and calculating damages in torts. However, those issues can be effectively addressed and resolved with the assistance of experienced business law attorneys who leverage both experience and resources.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our business tort attorneys in Houston.
Texas Tortious Interference Claims
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.
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
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.
Protect Your Rights With Proven Texas Business Lawyers
Hendershot Cowart P.C. is a Houston-based law firm serving individuals and businesses throughout the state of Texas and beyond. If you wish to learn more about our business litigation services, business torts, and your particular situation, contact us to speak with a member of our team.
Call (713) 909-7323 today.
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“I cannot say enough good things about my Lawyer, Mr. David Augustus. His calm, laser-like knowledge of business law allowed me to prevail and teach a few others during the short negotiations. Having the full backing of his law firm also helped greatly.” - L.A.
“Excellent experience working with Ray to settle our partnership dissolution. He was consistently available and steadfast in his guidance. Highly recommend this firm.” - S.H.
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