Monday, March 9, 2015

MBE Fast Fact: Interference with Business Relations

A tort that shows up with some regularity on the MBE is the tort of interference with business relations. As is the case with all intentional torts, the key to answering questions correctly that are testing this tort is to know the elements of the tort. They are as follows:

--A valid contractual relationship between plaintiff and a third party, or a valid business expectancy of plaintiff with the third part

--Defendant's knowledge of that relationship or expectancy

--Intentional interference of the relationship or expectancy by defendant that induces a breach of the relationship or expectancy

--Damages to plaintiff.

But the analysis does not end there. Defendant's conduct may be privileged where it is a proper attempt to obtain business for defendant. Defendant's conduct is far more likely to be deemed privileged in this respect if the conduct is one that merely interferes with plaintiff's expectancy of business and not an already-existing business relationship. In addition, the analysis should run in favor of finding a privilege if defendant used commercially acceptable means of persuasion rather than illegal or threatening tactics, or if defendant is a competitor of plaintiff seeking the same prospective clients. It's also important to note that if the third party has contacted defendant seeking business advice, and the defendant provides such advice, providing such advice is unlikely to be deemed actionable by plaintiff as an interference of plaintiff's relationship with the third party, even if the the advice ultimately leads to the third party forming a business relationship with defendant rather than plaintiff.

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