Competition between business rivals is expected, often vigorous and at times fierce, but lines can be crossed that may expose one to civil litigation. Many business relations are contractual, but many are not. Often the relationship may be established merely from the past conduct of the parties. It is not necessary to have a valid contract in place in order to have a claim of interference with business relations.
An individual cannot interfere with the business relationship between two parties or with the expectancy of a business deal between two parties. Typical acts include:
• Coercing clients to breach contracts
• Coercing employees to leave
• Encouraging vendors or suppliers to refrain from working with a business
• Making false statements regarding a competitor’s products or services
To file a civil claim for interference with business relations, the plaintiff must allege the defendant:
• Knew about the business relationship or expectancy of business
• Intentionally interfered; to be actionable, the interference must be intentional; a mistake or careless act will not support a claim
• Had no authority to do so
• Caused actual harm to the plaintiff
The court has a variety of options where it finds a wrongful interference. Most typically, monetary compensation is awarded for the loss of business. Additionally, attorney’s fees and costs may be available and in instances of deliberate or malicious interference, punitive damages may be included. Finally, equitable remedies in the form of an injunction prohibiting the interfering party from profiting may be appropriate.