As a business owner, you rely on your relationships with partners, vendors insurers and subcontractors to effectively manage your operations. When someone deliberately disrupts your contractual relations, their actions may constitute tortious interference.
Tortious interference can happen in two types of business relationships: those that have an existing agreement and those that are not yet contractual but have the potential to become partners.
Interfering with existing contracts
If a third party causes problems where there is an established business partnership or contractual relationship, and you wish to seek a legal remedy, you must prove the following elements:
- There was an existing contract that the interfering party knew about
- The party intentionally and furtively interfered with the contractual relationship
- The party’s actions caused harm to the contractual relationship
Interfering with a prospective business relationship
If you have an informal business relationship with a potential economic advantage, and a third party causes you to sever ties, you may have a claim for damages. The criteria you must meet include:
- You had a business relationship with another party, even if there is not yet a formal contract
- The interfering party knew about this relationship
- The party intentionally through improper conduct caused harm to your business relationship
Examples of improper conduct may include misrepresentation, economic pressure, fraud or physical violence. In New Jersey, there is a statute of limitations on tortious interference claims, and you must file your case within six years of the alleged action.
If you think someone has caused harm to your business by disrupting important relationships, you should learn about your rights under New Jersey contract law.