By: D.T. COLEN / FASP Founder
Last Updated: Monday, May 1, 2017
There's a reason attorneys universally have such horrid reputations. Dirty tricks come so naturally to an alarming number of them.
The importance, then, of remaining alert at all times whenever you interact with the attorney who filed a bogus defamation lawsuit against you can never be overstated.
Florida Rules Of Civil Procedure allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint once as a matter of course. Above and beyond one amendment, they must seek leave of the court for future re-submissions.
As such, every SLAPP defendant must stay on their
toes for whacky new allegations once they've proven, either through sworn testimony in a depo or through production of documents during the discovery process, that
the plaintiff has no case.
One such new allegation you might see on an amended complaint is called Tortious Interference With An
Advantageous Business Relationship.
Sounds pretty bad, huh? Well, that's exactly why so many unseemly attorneys turn to it as they try to further intimidate the speaker of a statement they dislike.
But the mere publication of a statement that is alleged to be defamatory can never give rise to a valid claim of tortious interference. Be that as it may, many plaintiffs' attorneys
continue to try sneaking it into their complaints.
In lay terms, a valid claim for tortious interference in the State of Florida must allege and show proof the defendant had knowledge of an advantageous business relationship
between the plaintiff and a third‑party ‑‑ as well as the fact the defendant breached that relationship by making actual contact with the third‑party.
Merely proffering in a lawsuit that business partners of a plaintiff read something in a newspaper or on a website in no way can be grounds for a valid claim of tortious interference in Florida.
Moreover, the case law that appears below indicates that just because some folks bought goods or services from a plaintiff at a prior point in time does not create, in any way,
that essential "advantageous business relationship" (the courts having ruled there is no guarantee of future purchases from any previous customers).
Now, speaking of attorneys and dirty play. Here's something sure to make you chuckle.
The plaintiff's attorney in the defamation lawsuit I'm currently defending actually had the stones to cry
"tortious interference" to our judge, claiming that the head of a little networking group in Coral Gables, Fla., someone by the name
of Drew Brickweg
, found a few insults online about him (the attorney).
The attorney has never been a plaintiff in the case. (In the interest of full disclosure, he had zero defamation experience prior to the filing of his zany lawsuit and
he only was "retained" because his father is the plaintiff). Yet he tried to incorporate Mr. Brickweg's findings of some name-calling about him ‑‑ not his father, who is the
plaintiff, for Chrissake, but about him!
‑‑ into the action.
Kids say the darndest things. Like I said, stay on your toes with attorneys.
If you're representing yourself in a bogus defamation lawsuit that includes a baseless allegation of Tortious Interference With An Advantageous Business Relationship, it's imperative to file
a Motion To Dismiss as your very first response to service of the complaint.
The relevant case law you'll need to include in your motion appears below.
Be sure to print out copies for both the judge and opposing counsel. First is the case law that makes clear
the requirements for a valid claim of tortious interference and then the case law showing dismissals of legally deficient allegations.
Marquez v. PanAmerican Bank, 943 So.2d 284, 286 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006),
Tamiami Trail Tours, Inc. v. Cotton, 463 So.2d 1126, 1127 (Fla. 1985),
Linafelt v. Beverly Enterprises-Florida, 745 So.2d 386, 389 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999):
"To state a cause of action for tortious interference with a business relationship, the aggrieved party must show four things: 1) the existence of
a business relationship with another, 2) the defendant's knowledge of that relationship, 3) an intentional and unjustified interference with the relationship
by the defendant, and 4) that the aggrieved party was damaged as a result of the defendant's interference."
Sarkis v. Pafford Oil Co., 697 So.2d 524, 526 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) (holding that the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claim for tortious interference because Plaintiffs
failed to identify the customers who were the subject of the interference):
"To state a claim for tortious interference under Florida law, a Plaintiff must identify specific customers who were the subject of
Bortell v. White Mountain Ins. Group, Ltd., 2 So. 3d 1041, 1048 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009):
"The Fourth District Court Of Appeal held that the Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action for tortious interference because the Plaintiff failed to identify with any
specificity the parties who were the subject of the alleged interference.
The plaintiff alleged only that the defendant interfered with the plaintiff's advantageous business relationship with a group of 'finite marine clients,' but
failed to either define the group or name a single individual with whom he claimed an advantageous relationship."
Ethan Allen Inc., v. Georgetown Manor Inc., 647 So.2d 812, 815 (Fla. 1994):
"The courts in both Sarkis
relied upon the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in Ethan Allen
in which the Court stated that an action for tortious interference with a business relationship requires a
"business relationship evidenced by an actual and identifiable understanding or agreement which in all probability would have been completed if the
defendant had not interfered."
Bayley Products Inc. v. Cole, 720 So.2d 550, 551 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998):
"Reversing the trial court and remanding for a directed verdict on tortious interference claim based on plaintiff's failure to present any evidence
connecting loss of business to the alleged tortious conduct)."