Would the sale of a separate outdoor security service to the client of a different alarm company providing indoor alarm service (say ADT) constitute tortious interference? 
Keith Jentoft
Answer - by Jesse Kirschenbaum, Esq.
    An alarm company does not own a customer for all purposes, only for whatever service it has contracted to provide.  It’s the customer’s prerogative to engage as many contractors it wishes to provide whatever services it wants, including overlaiping services.  So if a customer has an alarm system, including video, in its premises there is nothing wrong with another alarm company knocking on the door and trying to sell an outdoor system, or even different equipment indoors.  But, the second alarm company should not be connecting to the existing system without first making sure that the equipment or system is not owned by the other alarm company or under a service contract with the other alarm company.  Tampering with the existing system may place the subscriber in breach and that could ultimately lead to a tortious interference claim.  

    So, the answer depends on the scope of services that  are being provided by the company performing indoor alarm services.  The contract between the alarm company and the customer should specifically lay out the services that will be covered. If one company agrees to install and monitor a video feed indoors and another company contracts with the customer to perform installation and monitoring outdoors then there are no grounds to claim tortious interference with contract. Same goes for when a company sells an alarm system and another company is providing service on that actual system because a contract for sale is entirely different than a contract for services. Not to mention, a contract for sale ends as soon as the customer receives the alarm system.

    It is difficult to prove tortious interference with contract. A company has to show that the other company knew about its contract and then intentionally acted in a way to interfere with the performance of the contract. The typical situation where this arises is where a company lures away a customer or employee from another company. If two contracts cover different services however there is no way to claim tortious interference. A sustainable tortious interference claim can’t be made unless the two contracts overlap and it is impractical for the customer or employee to comply with both. To answer your question, the only way the first company would win a tortious interference claim would be if its contract with the customer covered the same services and the time periods overlapped.   

     In cases where an alarm company brings a tortious interference claim against another, it is very common that the offending company was trying to lure the customer away near the end of its contract. For instance, if the company providing indoor services is aware of the customer’s contract with the other company, it has to be very careful in how it goes about convincing the customer to switch once the contract ends. The trap that a lot of alarm companies fall into is thinking they are safe when the contract with the other company has less than a month to go and there are no more payments to be made. This is because courts consider interference with an option to renew a contract the same as interfering with the contract itself. To make sure you don’t leave yourself exposed to a tortious interference suit make sure you don’t try luring the customer away until the customer has notified the other company that it does not plan to renew.     Another way to guarantee you are not exposed to a lawsuit for tortious interference is to use contracts that clearly lay out the services to be covered and that include specific language limiting the alarm company’s liability.If you don’t think your contracts will legally protect you in court, then it’s time to visit alarmcontracts.com and replace your contracts.