Torts are generally defined as some type of act that infringes on the rights of another party. When such an act occurs, there is the possibility of pursuing legal action. A specific type of tort is known as the economic or business tort. Specifically, it involves actions related to contract terms, transaction issues, or interference in the function of a business that ends in some type of loss. By understanding how business torts occur in New York City and what sort of legal action can occur, it’s possible for consumers and business owners to avoid these events and ensure their business activities remain well within the limits of current laws.
Business Torts and New York Law
Information about tort law in New York City and the rest of the state is found in a number of laws that govern how businesses operate. Most of them can be traced back to provisions found in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, even though the state has never adopted a trade secrets law that is applied within its borders. Instead, there are a number of negligence and tort regulations found among the wider range of business related laws that have been passed by the state. Local laws found in cities may also have some impact on cases based within their jurisdictions.
One of the first things to understand about tort law in New York State and the city of New York is that they all have to do with matters of civil law. In fact, New York is among the few states that actually refer to tort laws. Other states are more likely to refer to the same regulations as codes.
This does not mean that some overlap with criminal laws may not be involved in a specific case. Depending on the circumstances that led to the action, there could be some overlap. This is a possibility when the range of loss involved includes physical injuries or damage to property attributed to the accused party. This means that the person seeking redress could conceivably file both civil and criminal cases against the defendant. Typically, both cases would be pursued separately, since the remedies found in tort law would differ somewhat from remedies found in criminal law.
A good example is found in New York’s Civil Practice Laws and Rules. Specifically, Section 1411 reads:
““In any action to recover damages for personal injury, injury to property, or wrongful death, the culpable conduct attributable to the claimant or to the decedent, including contributory negligence or assumption of risk, shall not bar recovery, but the amount of damages otherwise recoverable shall be diminished in the proportion which the culpable conduct attributable to the claimant or decedent bears to the culpable conduct which caused the damages.”
This particular provision has to do with what is known as comparative negligence. Under New York laws, a plaintiff could still seek damages from a defendant, even if the plaintiff was also found to be guilty of some degree of negligence. The resulting award would be decreased to be in proportion with what the court believes is the degree of responsibility carried by each party.
How is Business Tort Law Different in New York?
Along with the reference to laws rather than codes, business tort laws in the city and state of New York tend to differ with other states in three specific areas. The first has to do with limitations on the amount of damages the plaintiff can collect. Unlike other states, New York as recently as 2017 did not place limits on monetary judgments in favor of the plaintiff. From time to time, legislation is introduced to impost limits. Your lawyer will be aware of any changes that would affect your ability to seek and receive monetary damages should they occur.
The second difference has to do with the statute of limitations related to seeking a civil action against another party. This has to do with the amount of time after the alleged event that you can file a lawsuit. Depending on the specifics of the case, you would need to file within one calendar year. In other tort claims such as medical malpractice, you would have up to 2.5 years to file your case. This would apply to any type of medical treatment, including dental treatments.
The third has to do with divorce cases with some type of tort component. A good example would be a married couple who own a business jointly and choose to divorce. If there is evidence that one party took steps to undermine the business in order to devalue assets, it would be possible to file for damages on that basis.
Confusion Between the Court and the Legislature
One of the factors that can make understanding business torts and how to pursue them has to do with the confusion between procedural rules followed by the court and the rules found in laws passed by the legislature. Since steps have not been taken to fully define the difference between the two, understanding the nuances of how to pursue a case can be difficult. Those differences can also impact the outcome of a case if the court does not believe the circumstance clearly support the use of one or the other set of procedural rules.
Navigating the Process and Filing Your Case
Given the nature of business tort laws in New York, your best bet is to seek representation by an attorney. One who is well-versed in business law in general and business torts specifically would be the best approach. Doing so will make it easier to determine which laws apply to the case, ensure the structure of the case is clear and concise, and that the attorney will protect your rights while making the case during arbitration proceedings or in a court of law.
If you have sustained damages due to the actions of some type of business transaction, now is the time to seek legal counsel. It won’t take long to identify your options and come up with an approach designed to help you seek proper redress.