Interfering with someone else’s deal can draw lawsuits

Interfering with someone else’s deal can draw lawsuits

Georgia’s civil courts recognize a misdeed known by the serious-sounding name “tortious interference.”

The best way to explain this civil offense is often by example, and some attorneys’ favorite example is history’s first official case.

The colorful origin of tortious interference

The idea first appeared in a now-famous 1853 case in London, England.

A celebrity singer (Johanna Wagner) signed a contract with the Queen’s Theatre for a long string of performances. Covent Garden Theatre paid her more money to break her contract and sing at Covent Garden instead.

The Queen’s sued, claiming Covent Garden owed them the money it lost due to Covent Garden’s interference with the Queen’s contract with the singer. The Queen’s Theatre won and Covent Garden paid.

This case became the template for countless successful lawsuits ever since, including Pennzoil’s successful suit claiming Texaco scooped up a smaller oil company that Pennzoil had already agreed to purchase. The jury awarded Pennzoil over $10 billion.

What does it take to commit tortious interference?

Georgia law describes a signed contract as property and disallows interfering with someone trying to use their own property.

Proving that someone tortiously interfered with you means showing that they:

  • Persuaded or influenced someone to drop or not enter a business relationship with you
  • Did so improperly and without a legal right
  • Did so purposefully and maliciously, intending to financially injure you
  • Succeed in financially injuring you

To show interference with a contract, you must prove that there even was a contract.

Actions are also possible if someone interferes with “business relations,” and it involves showing that there was reasonable hope for developing business rights in the future.

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