In the United States, tort law is the area of the law that covers most civil lawsuits and business law torts are torts committed in the business context. Generally, every claim that arises in civil court, with the exception of contractual disputes, falls under tort law. The concept behind this area of law is to redress a wrong done to a person and provide relief from the wrongful acts of others, usually by awarding monetary damages as compensation.
Business law, on the other hand, is sometimes called mercantile law or commercial law and refers to the laws that govern businesses and commercial transactions. There are two distinct areas of business law: regulation of commercial entities through laws of partnership, limited liability company, corporate, securities regulation, intellectual property, bankruptcy, and agency and regulation of commercial transactions through the laws of contract. There is a common point where tort law and business law meet. This article discusses business law torts in the United States.
Business torts, also called “economic torts,” are wrongful acts committed against business entities that are often intentional but sometimes due to negligence or recklessness and cause (or are likely to cause in the future) some kind of financial loss. Business torts are not criminal offenses. Businesses that are financially injured through the intentional or negligent act of another business or individual may seek remedies in the form of monetary damages in civil court. Additionally, when injured, businesses can seek other types of remedies including injunctions. An injunction issued by court orders the defendant to cease certain unlawful activities. Like in any other torts case, the plaintiff must show the court the fulfillment of the four elements of torts.
Business law torts encountered the most include negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, trade libel, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with contract or business relationship, restraint of trade in certain cases, misappropriation of trade secrets, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and others. Below we will discuss some of these business law torts.
Tortious interference with contract or business relationship occurs when one party intentionally interferes with a contract between the plaintiff and another party, causing damages to the plaintiff. While restraint of trade is a common law doctrine and not a specific tort, it refers to claims in which the defendant’s act itself may not have caused the plaintiff’s immediate economic loss, but a much broader hindrance in its ability to conduct business as usual. However, there are reasonable scenarios of restrains of trade, such as the non-compete clause. Misappropriation of trade secrets occurs when one party unlawfully obtains proprietary information from a business with the intent of gaining an unfair competitive advantage.
Determining damages and calculating and collecting damages in cases of business law torts can be quite difficult and complex. Economic losses are often projections. However, damages for any kind of tort must be “calculable with reasonable certainty”.
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