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What is tortious interference with a contract?

It may be important for business owners in New York to understand the difference between normal business competition and tortious interference with a contract. Although competition is expected in business, intentional interference with a business contract can sometimes be unlawful. When the interference is deemed tortious, the activities may result in a litigated contract dispute.

A claim of tortious interference will typically involve a valid contract that was signed by the plaintiff and a third party. The defendant in this type of case will be a person who was aware of the contract before intentionally interfering with it in an unlawful way. The actions of the defendant will also have caused the plaintiff to suffer damage.

Some typical ways that business interference could be considered tortious include the use of blackmail or threats to induce a breach of contract. If the defendant offered below market prices to the third party, this action could be tortious if it was intended to cause the third party to break a previously signed contract with the plaintiff. In all cases, an action must be done in a willful effort to cause a contract breach in order to be considered tortious interference.

However, not every intentional interference is considered tortious. Courts will look at the motives of the defendant in an attempt to distinguish a prohibited interference from actions that merely reflected aggressive business practices. In addition, an actual interference with an existing contract or relationship must have occurred. It is not enough that the defendant attempted to interfere but was unsuccessful. As every situation has its own unique set of factual circumstances, obtaining the advice of a business law attorney is recommended.

Source: FindLaw, "Tortious Interference", September 07, 2014

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