Our law firm has vast experience handling all manner of business torts. Although the specific names and elements may vary by jurisdiction, a summary of common business torts recognized in Virginia include:
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
In some cases, a party may have a specific fiduciary duty to another party (the beneficiary). For example, officers, directors, and employees owe a fiduciary duty to their company/employer. In this context the company is the beneficiary of the fiduciary duty. This fiduciary duty requires the party to act in the best interest of the company/employer.
A fiduciary can breach this duty if he or she does not act in the best interest of the beneficiary (here the company). If the breach of fiduciary duty harms the company, the company can bring an action against the party breaching his or her fiduciary duty.
In every breach of fiduciary duty action the Plaintiff must establish: (1) the existence of a fiduciary duty; (2) a breach of that fiduciary duty; and, (3) damages proximately caused by that breach.
Tortious interference occurs when a third party deliberately and unlawfully interferes with an individual’s or company’s contractual dealings or business relationships.
Common examples of tortious interference include: 1) a competing company knowingly hiring an employee that is subject to a noncompete or other restrictive covenant; 2) intentionally interfering with a contract by preventing a company from carrying out its terms (e.g. preventing a delivery from occurring); 3) intentionally making a false statement in an effort to cause another business to stop working with a competing company.
In Virginia, the elements of a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations are: (1) the existence of a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy; (2) knowledge of the relationship or expectancy on the part of the interferor; (3) intentional interference inducing or causing a breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy; and (4) resultant damage to the party whose relationship or expectancy has been disrupted.
A fraudulent misrepresentation occurs when a party engages in deliberate deception or misrepresentation to induce another party to take an action. In most cases, these fraudulent misrepresentations occur through express affirmative representations (e.g. a business claiming to have a specific certification when it does not).
There are specific pleading requirements for any fraud claim that attorneys must be mindful of in bringing and defending any fraud action. Although there is a heighten pleading requirement, fraudulent misrepresentation claims carry significant penalties, including potential punitive and (in many states) attorney fee awards
In Virginia a fraudulent misrepresentation claim requires that a plaintiff show a false representation of a material fact, made intentionally, in the case of actual fraud, or negligently, in the case of constructive fraud, reliance on that false representation to their detriment, and resulting damage.
Conversion is the civil cause of action for theft. A person or company can bring an action for conversion to recover damages incurred as a result of the theft of its property. Conversion actions carry significant penalties including the potential disgorgement of ill gotten gains as well as punitive damages.
In Virginia the elements of a Conversion action are: 1) any wrongful exercise or assumption of authority ... 2) over another's goods, depriving him of their possessions; and 3) any act of dominion wrongfully exerted over property in denial of the owner's right, or inconsistent with it.
Defamation occurs when a party makes a provably false statement that harms another party’s business or personal reputation. In many jurisdictions, defamation can occur through both spoken statements as well as written statements. In a more modern application of defamation, businesses have successfully brought defamation actions against false or fraudulent online reviews submitted by reviewers that submitted the false statement to harm the business’s reputation.
In Virginia, the elements of defamation are 1) oral or written publication of (2) a false and actionable statement (3) made with the requisite intent to harm
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