Steve Riden Giving Presentation on Tortious Interference

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, Steve Riden will be a panelist for a Strafford presentation titled “Tortious Interference With Contracts, Business Relations, and Economic Advantage: Proving and Defending Claims.”

The presentation will be conducted via webinar on October 27, 2020, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET. Registration information and other details are available here.

The CLE webinar will focus on proving and defending claims of tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with business relations, and tortious interference with economic advantage.

These claims arise when a person intentionally disrupts a formal agreement between two parties or when a third party takes unlawful action to deliberately drive business away or to cause another party to not enter into a business relationship with the plaintiff.

The presentation will address the following issues:

  • What must plaintiffs prove to establish a tortious interference claim?
  • What are the potential defenses to defeat tortious interference claims?
  • Can preliminary injunctive relief be obtained for tortious interference?
  • What economic damages are available to prevailing plaintiffs in tortious interference cases?
  • How do tortious interference claims overlap with related employment, unfair competition, and defamation claims?

The other panelist for the presentation is V. John Ella
of Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A.

teve Riden is the President of the Board of Directors for the Boston College Law School Alumni Association. He is the current Chair of the Board of Editors for the Boston Bar Journal. Previously, Steve was the Co-Chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Business and Commercial Litigation Section.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment.

We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.

Phone Call to Employer to Enforce Noncompete Agreement Leads to Lawsuit

An employer accused of trying to have its former employee fired from her new job faces a lawsuit for defamation and tortious interference.

In Eaton v. Veterans Inc., Laurel Eaton filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against her former employer, Veterans Inc. In her lawsuit, Ms. Eaton claimed that Veterans called her new employer and asserted that Ms. Eaton’s noncompete agreement with Veterans prevented her employment with the new company.  Ms. Eaton alleged that, during that phone call, Veterans threatened litigation to enforce the noncompete agreement (which Veterans never pursued), and demanded that the new employer fire Ms. Eaton – which it did. Based on these facts, Ms. Eaton claimed that Veterans defamed her and tortiously interfered with her new employment.

In response to Ms. Eaton’s complaint, Veterans moved to dismiss the tortious interference and defamation claims, arguing that its communications to Ms. Eaton’s new employer could not form the basis for liability because they were protected by the litigation privilege, which “extends to communications made preliminary to proposed judicial proceedings if judicial proceedings are contemplated in good faith and under serious consideration.”

On January 16, 2020, the court (Hillman, J.) denied Veterans’ motion to dismiss Ms. Eaton’s complaint. The court accepted as true (as it must at the motion to dismiss stage) Ms. Eaton’s allegations in her Amended Complaint that

(1) Defendant [Veterans] knew or should have known that it lacked any legitimate business reason to enforce the Non-Compete Agreement; (2) Defendant knew or should have known that the Non-Compete Agreement was unenforceable; (3) Defendant knew or should have known that its statements to [the new employer] regarding the enforceability of the Non-Compete Agreement were false; and (4) Defendant made these statements with the malicious intent of getting [Ms. Eaton] fired.

The court concluded that these allegations “create the reasonable inference that Defendant threatened legal action in bad faith and did not seriously consider initiating any judicial proceeding against Plaintiff or” the new employer. Accordingly, the court declined to determine at this early stage whether the litigation privilege applies to Veterans’ statements and denied the motion to dismiss.

The court’s decision highlights a risk of trying to enforce a noncompete agreement. The decision also serves as a reminder that efforts to enforce a noncompete must be tied to legitimate business interests, and that the litigation privilege is not necessarily an impenetrable shield. In light of this decision, practitioners and parties alike should keep in mind the value in analyzing the risks and rewards associated with whether to enforce a noncompete agreement, and how to go about pursuing enforcement.

eck Reed Riden LLP is among the leading authorities in trade secret, noncompete, and unfair competition law, and our experience handling these matters is backed by our extensive employment law and business litigation experience. Our hand-picked team combines attorneys with complementary expertise and practical experience.

The Wall Street Journal featured Beck Reed Riden LLP’s noncompete agreement experience. In 2016, the White House issued a report entitled, “Non-Compete Agreements: Analysis of the Usage, Potential Issues, and State Responses,” relying in part on Beck Reed Riden LLP’s research and analysis, including its 50 State Noncompete Survey.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience at large law firms, working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.