Florida Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court Decision in Tortious Interference Case
Recently, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a lower court ruling in a tortious interference case. The case, DNA Sports Performance Lab, Inc. and Neiman Nix v. Club Atlantis Condominium Association, Inc., provides an instructive example of the sometimes complex issues of tortious interference.
Understanding the Dispute
DNA Sports is a tenant in a commercial space in a Miami Beach condo property owned and managed by Club Atlantis Condominiums. According to DNA Sports, Club Atlantis indirectly owed them a contractual right to have the first option to rent at least twelve parking spaces on the premises of their property. Notably, Club Atlantis is not the landlord of the specific commercial space that DNA Sports rents. However, as a condo association, Club Atlantis did approve of the lease agreement between DNA Sports and the actual landlord. DNA sports alleges that Club Atlantis is guilty of tortious interference because the association blocked it from getting parking spaces, thereby, allegedly financially damaging the business and its contract with the actual landlord.
The Trial Court Dismisses the Case
A Miami-Dade County trial court dismissed this case. The specific reason for this was because DNA Sports allegedly failed to submit a claim for which relief could have been granted. In other words, in the view of the trial court, there was no way that DNA Sports could prevail in the case, even if the court was to accept all of the facts and arguments they presented.
Of note, the case was dismissed with prejudice. To dismiss a case with prejudice means that DNA Sports would be barred from re-filing a claim on this issue in the future. A dismissal with prejudice is harsh, and it was certainly a bad result for DNA Sports. Though, even if this does happen, plaintiffs are not without options. They still retain appeal rights.
The appeals court disagreed with the ruling of the trial court. Most importantly, the court pointed to the fact that DNA Sports could potentially have a valid tortious interference claim. A tortious interference claim does not require that the two parties actually have a contract in place with one another. Indeed, these claims involve the alleged disruption of business relationships with third parties. To prove a tortious interference in Florida, a plaintiff will need to be able to establish the following four required elements:
- There was a contract between the plaintiff and a third party;
- The defendant in question knew, or should have known, about that relationship;
- The defendant intentionally interfered with that relationship, without justification; and
- The plaintiff in the case suffered real damages.
Get Legal Assistance Today
Did your Florida company suffer financial losses due to the breach of a contract or tortious interference? If so, the South Florida business law attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP are ready to help. To set up a free review of your case, please reach out to us today calling our primary office in West Palm Beach office at 561-291-8298, or our new location in Miami at 305-697-9799.