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What are the requirements for tortious interference?

All business owners, managers and sales people know about competition. Competition is actually a vital part of most marketplaces, as it drives the market forward. That doesn't mean it isn't sometimes frustrating for those involved, and there are times with other businesses or individuals do cross the line. Sometimes when those lines are crossed, there might be a case for a lawsuit for tortious interference.

Tortious interference occurs when one person or entity acts willfully and with intent to undermine or get in the way of a contract or business agreement. For example, if someone attempts to make it impossible for a company to follow through on a contractual obligation by delaying a delivery on purpose, then tortious interference might be involved.

If your business or business relationships are damaged by such interference, you could have the basis of a lawsuit against the other person or entity. Successful tortious interference clams usually start with a valid expectancy or contract between two or more people or businesses. The person accused of the interference must have enough knowledge of the contract that his or her actions could be deemed to purposely interfere. Intent to interfere -- and actual actions that interfere -- must also be present, and that interference must have caused damages.

It's important to note that not all interference is tortious. Negligence without intent is not necessarily tortious interference, for example, and someone who undersells you within market parameters is just competing with you, not necessarily tortiously interfering. If you want to know if something is tortious interference, then speaking with a business litigation professional can be a good first step.

Source: FindLaw, "Tortious Interference," accessed May 19, 2016

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