The area of tort law covers a wide range of misconduct, including personal injuries, negligence, and malpractice. Tort law also shares some overlap with other major areas of law like business and contracts law. Business torts usually involve unfair trade practices that result in an intentional and improper interference with the business interests of another.
While most torts involve injury to another person’s body or damage to their property, business torts involve “injury” to another’s business interests. These can include losses of business opportunities, loss of clients, loss of business relations, etc.
Thus, many business torts involve losses that may occur in the future, rather than losses that were experienced in the past. Because of this aspect, many business tort claims involve a complex determination of the plaintiff’s future or projected losses.
A few common examples of business torts include:
- Wrongful Interference: This is where the defendant intentionally and wrongfully interferes with the legitimate business interests of another. Claims falling within this category include wrongful interference with contracts (“tortious interference”); interference with prospective business opportunities; and interference with the right to earn a living.
- Unfair Competition: This is very similar to trademark and copyright infringement, where the defendant markets a product that is confusingly similar to the plaintiff’s. These types of claims may also involve some form of false advertising.
- Disparagement: Disparagement occurs where a party makes false statements regarding the quality of goods or products, causing loss of business to the plaintiff. Many different types of claims involve disparagement, such as slander of title, and trade libel. False or fake negative reviews of a product may also constitute disparagement.
- Computer Torts: More and more jurisdictions are recognizing damage to computers as a business tort. For example, intentional damage to the hardware or software of a computer can be considered a business tort if it negatively affects the business’ ability to secure profits. Negligent use of a computer may also be considered a tort in some jurisdictions.
Remedies for business torts usually involve some form of monetary damages award for the plaintiff. The defendant will have to reimburse the plaintiff for any losses that their tortious conduct had caused.
One aspect that is true for all torts is that the damages must be “calculable with reasonable certainty.” This means that the plaintiff must be able to translate their economic losses into a specific numeric figure. This can often be difficult, since it is generally hard to calculate what “loss of business reputation” or loss of clientele means in numbers.
For example, if a business tort caused a plaintiff to lose clients, they should be able to prove not only that they will be losing clients, but what that loss will mean in terms of monetary value. They would need to show exactly how much profit or income they will be losing due to the loss of clients.
Another common remedy is for the court to issue an injunction ordering the defendant to cease their tortious conduct. For example, the proper remedy might require the defendant to remove all false ads and any disparaging statements about the plaintiff’s product.
If you have become involved in a business tort situation, you may wish to hire a business lawyer for representation in court. Your lawyer will be able to help you recover any losses caused by the business tort, according to the laws in your state. Or, if a business tort lawsuit has been filed against you, a competent attorney can help defend you in court.