Virginia Tortious Interference Attorneys
Fair competition between businesses is good for the consumer and for our market as a whole. This is one reason our free market system protects legitimate competitive economic activity. But when a third party wrongfully and intentionally interferes with the contractual relations or legitimate business expectancies of another, the law provides that its actions are tortious and become legally prohibited interference.
Under Virginia law, when a contract is for a stated period or duration, the parties have defined rights and responsibilities and the law has low tolerance for third-party interference with that contract. A claim of tortious interferences requires evidence of:
- the existence of a contract or business expectancy;
- knowledge of that contract or expectancy by a third party;
- intentional interference by the third party inducing or causing a breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy; and
- resulting damages.
If the contractual parties can end the contractual relationship at any time, the contract is “terminable at will,” and Virginia law is much more forgiving of interference with the relationship. For such situations, the offended party will have an additional hurdle in proving a tortious interference claim and will need to show that the third party interfered by utilizing improper means or methods.
Examples of improper means or methods of interference include violence, threats or intimidation, bribery, unfounded litigation, fraud, misrepresentation or deceit, defamation, duress, undue influence, misuse of inside or confidential information, or breach of fiduciary relationship. Courts may also explore whether the method of interference violates a professional or trade standard.
Tortious interference with a contract may happen in a variety of ways. It could occur when a vendor intentionally induces a purchaser to breach an agreement with another vendor in order to usurp the business opportunity or simply to financially punish a competitor. A third party could convince an employer to breach its employment agreement based on false statements about the employee. Another example may be where a holdover tenant intentionally prevents the new lessee from taking possession of the property.
Claims for tortious interference often arise in the employment context when an employee is subject to a non-compete agreement or a non-solicitation agreement. If a competitor hires that employee to work in a manner that violates the non-compete agreement, the former employer may sue the competitor for tortious interference.
Tortious interference is a somewhat complicated tort, and there are many valid defenses that may apply. Independent legal advice and analysis is important when a business is facing a claim that they have tortiously interfered with a contract. And suits for tortious interference usually involve allegations of collusion by parties, which may form the basis for business conspiracy and similar claims.
If your business is suffering due to another’s inference with contractual relations or business expectancy, or if you or your business have been accused of interfering in such a way, call the Virginia Tortious Interference Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. Serving professionals and the business community, our Virginia Tortious Interference lawyers have extensive experience in these businesses claims among competitors, disgruntled former employees, and others who may be involved in a tortious interference matter with existing or prospective business relationships. Contact MartinWren, P.C. today at 434-817-3100, and ask for either Robert E. Byrne, Jr. or John B. Simpson.