Tortious Interference Florida Law (Elements, Defense & More)

Tortious interference Florida lawWhile competition in business is a certainty, some companies and persons may find themselves the victims of especially malicious business activity from third parties. Sometimes, this is what's known as tortious interference. Business owners should understand how tortious interference in Florida works so they can protect their interests and take action when misconduct occurs. 

What is tortious interference in Florida?

Tortious interference is a legal cause of action that an individual, business, or other entity may have against another party. This type of civil tort claim is generally monetary damages that arise because of one party's wrongful interference in the relationship of another. It exists in addition to any remedies a party may have under Florida contract law or other state law. 

What is tortious interference with business relations?

Florida tortious interference with business relations is a specific type of interference claim that occurs when a third party harms a business relationship. A tortious interference claim could arise within the business context under a wide range of relationships such as a breach of contract, poaching key employees, etc.   

Florida recognizes two types of business relationships that can be susceptible to a case of tortious interference. They are a contractual business relationship or an advantageous business relationship. The former refers to interference with an enforceable contract between two parties, such as an NDA, purchase agreement, or other contracts. 

An advantageous business relationship, in contrast, is not necessarily defined by the terms of a contract but that still brings value to a business (e.g., customer relationships, referral sources, etc.). 

What is tortious interference with a parent-child relationship under Florida law?

In addition to business relationships, it is also possible to have tortious interference with parent-child relationships in Florida. The interference could be from an ex-spouse, the child's other parent, a friend of a parent, or other extended relatives. 

You may see this type of tortious interference claim occur in the context of divorced or separated parents when one party takes action that prevents or diminishes the parent-child relationship of another. 

The elements of a successful claim for tortious interference with a parent-child relationship (i.e., custodial interference) in Florida include: 

  • a person must have parental rights over a minor child
  • a party outside of that parental relationship must have intentionally interfered with those rights (e.g., preventing or limiting child access, slandering the parent in front of the child, etc.)
  • The interference must cause harm to the parent-child relationship, and damages to the parent must ensue

The elements of tortious interference

A business owner or other claimant must generally prove all required tortious interference Florida elements to have a successful case. The four elements are: the plaintiff's existence of a business relationship, the defendant's knowledge of the relationship, the defendant's intentional interference disrupts the relationship and the existence of damages. 

Examples of tortious interference with business relationships

Some examples of tortious interference with business relationships may include the hypothetical scenarios illustrated below. 

Tortious interference Florida wills

A will is a legal instrument used to pass property and assets to family and others after their death. A case for tortious interference Florida wills is when a party intentionally disrupts a beneficiary from receiving property. This interference could take different forms, such as getting a testator to revise their will or even hiding property to prevent its transfer.  

Tortious interference with inheritance in Florida

Similar to the above, tortious interference with inheritance in Florida is when a party disrupts the expected transfer of property from one person to their descendant or heir. The difference is that some familial or lineal descendant relationship must exist that would entitle the plaintiff to the inheritance under the intestacy laws of the state of Florida. 

What are defenses to tortious interference under Florida law?

Perhaps the simplest defenses to tortious interference under Florida law are to prove that one or more necessary elements are not met. For example, you could show that a defendant's interference did not cause any damage. You may also be able to show that a defendant lacked the requisite intent to commit the tort (e.g., didn't know about the plaintiff's contract with another party or other advantageous business relationship). 

Affirmative defenses to tortious interference under Florida law

Affirmative defenses to tortious interference under Florida law will vary depending on context. For example, a defense for alleged interference via comments that harm a company's reputation would be if those comments were true. 

Another defense could be if a disrupted contractual business relationship involved an unenforceable contract (e.g., an invalid non-compete or a mistake in contract law). Finally, a party may have an affirmative defense if they were acting on the advice of counsel or had some justifiable reason for the interference. 

Tortious interference Florida actual damages

A plaintiff can generally recover tortious interference Florida actual damages, which include compensation related to the claim: 

  • future lost business income
  • incurred business expenses as a direct result
  • cost of pursuing a claim (e.g., attorney's fees) 

Additionally, a court may award the plaintiff of a successful tortious interference claim with punitive damages, which is further compensation to deter future interference from the defendant. 

What is the tortious interference Florida statute of limitations?

The tortious interference Florida statute of limitations is four years, which usually begins on the date of the unjustified interference.

Is tortious interference hard to prove?

The level of difficulty in proving a tortious interference case will vary depending on the context and available evidence. Where cases involve written contracts showing the requisite intent of interference, proving the claim may be more manageable. However, cases that rely on witness testimony may be harder to prove. 

How we can help with a Florida tortious interference

As business lawyers, the attorneys at Cueto Law Group understand how unjustified interference from competitors and third parties can disrupt a company and place its people at risk. We also appreciate that the same disruption can happen to a business or person wrongfully accused of tortious interference. In either case, our firm is proud to represent its clients in such matters of Florida business litigation. 

Please contact our office today with questions or concerns about a possible case of Florida tortious interference.

Final points on tortious interference with a contract in Florida

Business owners should know that remedies exist for parties injured by tortious interference with a contract in Florida. As soon as a potentially harmful interference occurs, you should contact a business attorney. A business lawyer can help you understand your rights and present you with available options related to the involved contract or pursuing a case.