A common problem in business that leads to litigation is when someone such as an ex-employee or a business partner is found stealing clients from the company. An employee might leave your employment taking clients, or worse- the company’s client list, with them. Or maybe your business partner has started acquiring clients and secretly keeping them, and the profits, for himself? In Washington it is possible to bring a civil lawsuit against an employee or business partner if you find that they have stolen clients under a claim of Tortious Interference.
Tortious Interference Claims in Washington State
To be successful in a Tortious Interference lawsuit you will need to prove:
– Existence of a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy;
–You or your business realized damages because of their actions;
The employee or business partner:
– Knew of the relationship or expectancy;
– Intentionally interfered and that caused a breach or termination of the client relationship or business expectancy; and
– Interfered for an improper purpose or used improper means
Interference with Business Client Relationships
The success of this type of case relies heavily on the specific facts and the situation you present to the court. You will need to show that the defendant intentionally interfered with your client relationship. Similarly, you will need to show that the interference was wrongful based on their conduct and motives. The court will examine their existing relationship to the client as well as the client’s contractual interests. The defendant may defend their actions by attempting to show that they acted in good faith to protect an existing legal right or financial interest and not just to obtain new customers. They may also claim that their actions were merely competition for the client’s business and not motivated by bad faith or using wrongful means to interfere.
The existence of a valid contractual relationship does not require you to prove you had an existing contract with the lost client. It can be sufficient to show that you had a relationship with the client. In addition you may need to show that you were both contemplating a contract and that you had a reasonable expectation that the transaction would occur. It will also be necessary to show that the defendant’s interference was what actually caused you to lose the client and that it was not due to your own fault or another unrelated cause. If you have experienced interference with your clients and you wish to recover your losses, you will want to consider a civil lawsuit.
This type of litigation is very complex so you may want to consult an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of business law to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Please contact us if you have questions about your business affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 236- 4079.