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Tortious interference, also known as intentional interference with contractual relations, in the common law of torts, occurs when one person intentionally damages someone else's contractual or business relationships with a third party causing economic harm.As an example, someone could use blackmail to induce a contractor into breaking a contract, or they could obstruct someone's ability to honor a contract with a client by deliberately refusing to deliver necessary goods.
In law, common law is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.
A contract is a legally-binding agreement which recognises and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement. A contract is legally enforceable because it meets the requirements and approval of the law. An agreement typically involves the exchange of goods, services, money, or promises of any of those. In the event of breach of contract, the law awards the injured party access to legal remedies such as damages and cancellation.
A tort of negligent interference occurs when one party's negligence damages the contractual or business relationship between others, causing economic harm, such as, by blocking a waterway or causing a blackout that prevents the utility company from being able to uphold its existing contracts with consumers.
Negligence is a failure to exercise appropriate and or ethical ruled care expected to be exercised amongst specified circumstances. The area of tort law known as negligence involves harm caused by failing to act as a form of carelessness possibly with extenuating circumstances. The core concept of negligence is that people should exercise reasonable care in their actions, by taking account of the potential harm that they might foreseeably cause to other people or property.
Tortious interference with contract rights can occur when one party convinces another to breach its contract with a third party (e.g., using blackmail, threats, influence, etc.) or where someone knowingly interferes with a contractor's ability to perform his contractual obligations, preventing the client from receiving the services or goods promised (e.g., by refusing to deliver goods). The tortfeasor is the person who interferes with the contractual relationship between others. When a tortfeasor is aware of an existing contract and deliberately induces a breach by one of the contract holders, it is termed, "tortious inducement of breach of contract".
Breach of contract is a legal cause of action and a type of civil wrong, in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party's performance. Breach occurs when a party to a contract fails to fulfill its obligation(s) as described in the contract, or communicates an intent to fail the obligation or otherwise appears not to be able to perform its obligation under the contract. Where there is breach of contract, the resulting damages will have to be paid by the party breaching the contract to the aggrieved party.
Tortious interference with business relationships occurs where the tortfeasor intentionally acts to prevent someone from successfully establishing or maintaining business relationships with others. This tort may occur when one party knowingly takes an action that causes a second party not to enter into a business relationship with a third party that otherwise would probably have occurred. An example is when a tortfeasor offers to sell a property to someone below market value knowing they were in the final stages of a sale with a third party pending the upcoming settlement date to formalize the sale writing. Such conduct is termed "tortious interference with a business expectancy".
Closing is the final step in executing a real estate transaction.
The above situation are actionable only if someone with actual knowledge of, and intent to interfere with, an existing contract or expectancy between other parties, acts improperly with malicious intent and actually interferes with the contract/expectancy, causing economic harm.Historically, there has not been actionable cause if the interference was merely negligent. However, for some jurisdictions recognize such claims, although many do not. A tort of negligent interference occurs when one party's negligence damages the contractual or business relationship between others causing economic harm, such as, by blocking a waterway or causing a blackout preventing the utility company from being able to uphold its existing contracts with consumers.
An early, perhaps the earliest, instance of recognition of this tort occurred in Garret v Taylor , 79 Eng. Rep. 485 (K.B. 1620). In that case, the defendant drove customers away from the plaintiff’s quarry by threatening them with mayhem and also threatening to “vex [them] with suits.” The King's Bench court said that “the defendant threatened violence to the extent of committing an assault upon ... customers of the plaintiff ... whereupon ‘they all desisted from buying.’’ The court therefore upheld a judgment for the plaintiff.
In a similar case, Tarleton v McGawley , 170 Eng. Rep. 153 (K.B. 1793), the defendant shot from its ship, Othello, off the coast of Africa upon natives while “contriving and maliciously intending to hinder and deter the natives from trading with” plaintiff’s rival trading ship, Bannister. This action caused the natives (plaintiff’s prospective customers) to flee the scene, depriving the plaintiff of their potential business. The King's Bench court held the conduct actionable. The defendant claimed, by way of justification, that the local native ruler had given it an exclusive franchise to trade with his subjects, but the court rejected this defense.
The tort was described in the case of Keeble v Hickeringill , (1707) 103 Eng. Rep. 1127, styled as a "trespass on the case". In that case, the defendant had used a shotgun to drive ducks away from a pond that the plaintiff had built for the purpose of capturing ducks. Thus, unlike the foregoing cases, here the actionable conduct was not directly driving the prospective customers away, but rather eliminating the subject matter of the prospective business. Although the ducks had not yet been captured, the Justice Holt wrote for the court that "where a violent or malicious act is done to a man's occupation, profession, or way of getting a livelihood, there an action lies in all cases." The court noted that the defendant would have the right to draw away ducks to a pond of his own, raising as a comparison a 1410 case in which the court deemed that no cause of action would lie where a schoolmaster opened a new school that drew students away from an old school.
The application of the above has since been modified in UK law. In OBG v Allan  1 AC 1. Wrongful interference: the unified theory which treated causing loss by unlawful means as an extension of the tort of inducing a breach of contract was abandoned; inducing breach of contract and causing loss by unlawful means were two separate torts. inducing a breach of contract was a tort of accessory liability, and an intention to cause a breach of contract was a necessary and sufficient requirement for liability; a person had to know that he was inducing a breach of contract and to intend to do; that a conscious decision not to inquire into the existence of a fact could be treated as knowledge for the purposes of the tort; that a person who knowingly induced a breach of contract as a means to an end had the necessary intent even if he was not motivated by malice but had acted with the motive of securing an economic advantage for himself; that, however, a breach of contract which was neither an end in itself nor a means to an end but was merely a foreseeable consequence of a person’s acts did not give rise to liability; and that there could be no secondary liability without primary liability, and therefore a person could not be liable for inducing a breach of contract unless there had in fact been a breach by the contracting party.
Causing loss by unlawful means: acts against a third party counted as unlawful means only if they were actionable by that third party if he had suffered loss; that unlawful means consisted of acts intended to cause loss to the claimant by interfering with the freedom of a third party in a way which was unlawful as against that third party and which was intended to cause loss to the claimant, but did not include acts which might be unlawful against a third party but which did not affect his freedom to deal with the claimant. Strict liability for conversion applied only to an interest in chattels and not to chooses in action; this was too radical to impose liability for pure economic loss on receivers who had been appointed and had acted in good faith. This also left open the position where they breached the duty of good faith.
Although the specific elements required to prove a claim of tortious interference vary from one jurisdiction to another, they typically include the following:
The first element may, in employment-at-will jurisdictions, be held fulfilled in regards to a previously unterminated employer/employee relationship.
In California, these are the elements of negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, which the plaintiff must establish:
Some cases add that a defendant acts negligently only if "the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care."
California and most jurisdictions hold that there is a privilege to compete for business. “Under the privilege of free competition, a competitor is free to divert business to himself as long as he uses fair and reasonable means. Thus, the plaintiff must present facts indicating the defendant’s interference is somehow wrongful—i.e., based on facts that take the defendant’s actions out of the realm of legitimate business transactions.”"[T]he competition privilege is defeated only where the defendant engages in unlawful or illegitimate means." "Wrongful" in this context means “independently wrongful”—that is, "blameworthy" or " independently wrongful apart from the interference itself." This may be termed use of improper means. “Commonly included among improper means are actions which are independently actionable, violations of federal or state law or unethical business practices, e.g., violence, misrepresentation, unfounded litigation, defamation, trade libel or trade mark infringement.” Other examples of "wrongful conduct" are "fraud, misrepresentation, intimidation, coercion, obstruction or molestation of the rival or his servants or workmen."
Typical legal damages for tortious interference include economic losses, if they can be proven with certainty, and mental distress. Additionally punitive damages may be awarded if malice on the part of the wrongdoer can be established.
Equitable remedies may include injunctive relief in the form of a negative injunction that would be used to prevent the wrongdoer from benefiting from any contractual relationship that may arise out of the interference, i.e., the performance of a singer who was originally contracted with the plaintiff to perform at the same time.
Tortious interference with an expected inheritance - One who, by fraud, duress or other tortious means intentionally prevents another from receiving from a third person an inheritance or gift that he would otherwise have received, is subject to liability to the other for loss of the inheritance or gift.
Trespass is an area of criminal law or tort law broadly divided into three groups: trespass to the person, trespass to chattels and trespass to land.
In jurisprudence, duress or coercion refers to a situation whereby a person performs an act as a result of violence, threat, or other pressure against the person. Black's Law Dictionary defines duress as "any unlawful threat or coercion used... to induce another to act [or not act] in a manner [they] otherwise would not [or would]". Duress is pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act they ordinarily would not perform. The notion of duress must be distinguished both from undue influence in the civil law. In criminal law, duress and necessity are different defenses.
Malicious prosecution is a common law intentional tort. While like the tort of abuse of process, its elements include (1) intentionally instituting and pursuing a legal action that is (2) brought without probable cause and (3) dismissed in favor of the victim of the malicious prosecution. In some jurisdictions, the term "malicious prosecution" denotes the wrongful initiation of criminal proceedings, while the term "malicious use of process" denotes the wrongful initiation of civil proceedings.
This article addresses torts in United States law. As such, it covers primarily common law. Moreover, it provides general rules, as individual states all have separate civil codes. There are three general categories of torts: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability torts.
Trespass to chattels is a tort whereby the infringing party has intentionally interfered with another person's lawful possession of a chattel. The interference can be any physical contact with the chattel in a quantifiable way, or any dispossession of the chattel. As opposed to the greater wrong of conversion, trespass to chattels is argued to be actionable per se.
Vicarious liability is a form of a strict, secondary liability that arises under the common law doctrine of agency, respondeat superior, the responsibility of the superior for the acts of their subordinate or, in a broader sense, the responsibility of any third party that had the "right, ability or duty to control" the activities of a violator. It can be distinguished from contributory liability, another form of secondary liability, which is rooted in the tort theory of enterprise liability because, unlike contributory infringement, knowledge is not an element of vicarious liability. The law has developed the view that some relationships by their nature require the person who engages others to accept responsibility for the wrongdoing of those others. The most important such relationship for practical purposes is that of employer and employee
In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The claimant must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability. The duty of care may be imposed by operation of law between individuals who have no current direct relationship but eventually become related in some manner, as defined by common law.
An intentional tort is a category of torts that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor. The term negligence, on the other hand, pertains to a tort that simply results from the failure of the tortfeasor to take sufficient care in fulfilling a duty owed, while strict liability torts refers to situations where a party is liable for injuries no matter what precautions were taken.
A concept of English law, a misrepresentation is an untrue or misleading statement of fact made during negotiations by one party to another, the statement then inducing that other party into the contract. The misled party may normally rescind the contract, and sometimes may be awarded damages as well.
Economic torts, which are also called business torts, are torts that provide the common law rules on liability which arise out of business transactions such as interference with economic or business relationships and are likely to involve pure economic loss.
Economic loss is a term of art which refers to financial loss and damage suffered by a person such as can be seen only on a balance sheet rather than as physical injury to the person or destruction of property. There is a fundamental distinction between pure economic loss and consequential economic loss, as pure economic loss occurs independent of any physical damage to the person or property of the victim. It has also been suggested for it to be called "commercial loss" as injuries to person or property could be regarded as "economic".
Torquay Hotel Co Ltd v Cousins  2 Ch 106 is a UK labour law case concerning the liability of a union when its members take industrial action.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to tort law:
Royscot Trust Ltd v Rogerson EWCA Civ 12 is an English contract law case on misrepresentation. It examines the Misrepresentation Act 1967 and addresses the extent of damages available under s 2(1) for negligent misrepresentation.
Wrongful birth is a legal cause of action in some common law countries in which the parents of a congenitally diseased child claim that their doctor failed to properly warn of their risk of conceiving or giving birth to a child with serious genetic or congenital abnormalities. Thus, the plaintiffs claim, the defendant prevented them from making a truly informed decision as to whether or not to have the child. Wrongful birth is a type of medical malpractice tort. It is distinguished from wrongful life, in which the child sues the doctor.
Economic torts in English law refer to a species of civil wrong which protects the economic wealth that a person will gain in the ordinary course of business. Proving compensation for pure economic loss, examples of an economic tort include interference with economic or business relationships.
OBG Ltd v Allan  UKHL 21 was a combined appeal with Douglas v Hello! Ltd and Mainstream Properties Ltd v Young and stands as the leading case on economic torts in English law.
Smith v. Summit Entertainment LLC, No. 3:11-cv-00348, was a case heard by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in which professional singer Matthew Smith, known as Matt Heart, sued Summit Entertainment. Smith asserted seven causes of action for Summit Entertainment's wrongful use of copyright takedown notice on the website YouTube, among which three were dismissed and four were ruled in Smith's favor. The case is noteworthy given that copyright 17 U.S.C. § 512 claims are hard to win, and the plaintiff's success was due to the combination of his persuasive story and convincing additional claims which complemented § 512.
PhoneDog v. Kravitz, No. 11-03474, was a case in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California about whether Twitter accounts and their passwords could be company property or trade secrets. In this case a mobile device news website PhoneDog sued Noah Kravitz, its former employee, after Kravitz refused to turn over password information for the Twitter account he developed and cultivated during his employment. When Kravitz asked the court to dismiss this case, the court held that Twitter accounts and their passwords could constitute trade secrets and that failure on behalf of the employee to relinquish an account could constitute misuse of a trade secret or "trade secret misappropriation." This case is often cited in arguments for the importance of including clauses about social media account ownership in employment contracts.