Tortious interference with contract is a business illegal activity or tort that allows a business, a party to a contract, to hold a third person, who was not part of the contract, to be liable, if that person illegally interfered with the contract in a way that caused a loss, harm or damage. Interference with contract is related to another illegal activity known as tortious interference with business expectancy. The primary difference between these two types of tortious interference with contract and interference with business expectancy – is that the first type of interference requires that two parties to have a contract, while the second type of interference applies to any kind of business relationship.
In order to prove a case of tortious interference with contract, a plaintiff must be able to demonstrate all of the following things are true:
- the plaintiff had a contract with another person or business,
- the defendant knew about the contract,
- the defendant deliberately acted in a way that would cause a breach of contract,
- the breach of contract occurred, and
- the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
A defendant in a tortious interference with contracts case may be held liable for causing a breach of contract between the plaintiff and the other contracting party in a number of different ways. For instance, the defendant may have encouraged, threatened, or coerced one of the parties to the contract into breaching. The defendant may also have interfered by making it impossible for one of the parties to meet its obligations under the contract with the intent that being unable to hold up its end of the bargain would force one of the parties to breach the contract.
The plaintiff in a tortious interference with contract case must show that the defendant acted intentionally. The plaintiff does not, however, have to prove that the defendant acted out of malice or spite. For a tortious breach of contract case, the plaintiff only has to show that the defendant knew that there was a contract and that his behavior was likely to cause a breach of that contract.
The plaintiff must also show that the defendant had no justification for breaching the contract. If a legal justification exists, the defendant may not be held liable, even if he intentionally caused a breach of contract.