Those with experience in business litigation are well schooled with the claim known as tortious interference with contractual relations. In addition to being the most frequently misspelled legal theory, it may also be the most versatile. At its essence, this claim allows a plaintiff to bring a claim for tort damages (including punitive damages) where improper conduct causes a third party to terminate its existing or prospective contract with the plaintiff.
There can be quite a bit of nuance in evaluating these claims, both with regard to the facts and the law. It is important to realize that not every “interference” is considered “tortious or improper.” Fair competition will never be considered tortious, even where it results in someone terminating a contract. To illustrate this point, think of a cell phone customer terminating her service (or deciding not to renew it) because a different carrier offers her a discount to switch. While the offer to switch most certainly interfered with the customer’s agreement with her existing carrier, the interference is not considered improper, but rather, fair competition. In the same scenario, the conduct of the competing carrier may well rise to the level of “tortious or improper” if, in addition to offering the discount, the competing carrier falsely disparaged the existing company’s products or services.
If you have questions about what constitutes tortious interference with contractual relations, contact an experienced business litigation attorney.