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Airplane Seller Lacked Minimum Contact with Florida, Couldn’t Be Sued Here for Non-Payment of Commission

planeIn any commercial dispute, as with any litigation generally, there are some preliminary matters you must satisfy before you can bring your case in a particular place. In the case of a dispute between an airplane seller and its agent brokering the sale, the matter that proved to be a problem for the plaintiff was personal jurisdiction. The seller didn’t have sufficient contacts with Florida, so that meant the agent couldn’t sue it here, the Second District Court of Appeal opined.

This case stemmed from a dispute related to a marketing agreement. Moro Aircraft Leasing, Inc. was a company that, in early 2013, listed one of its airplanes for sale online. International Aviation Marketing, Inc. discovered the listing and reached out to Moro, offering to manage the sale of Moro’s plane for the seller.

Moro and International signed a contract in which International promised to find a buyer for Moro’s plane and to manage the negotiations of the sale. In exchange, International received a $50,000 commission when the plane sold. International introduced Moro to Toss II LLC, a company that ultimately completed the purchase of the airplane in question. Despite Toss’ making the purchase and International’s having discovered Toss, Moro did not pay International a commission.

This, of course, led International to sue Moro for breach of contract. Sarasota-based International brought that lawsuit in Florida. Moro promptly filed a motion with the Florida court, asking for dismissal. Moro argued that it had no legal contact with Florida, so the Florida courts had no jurisdiction over it. The trial court rejected this motion and allowed the case to continue.

The seller, however, appealed and won. When a court must decide whether or not your business is subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida, the court must look at Florida’s “long-arm” statute. That statute says that your business is subject to the jurisdiction of the Florida courts if it breached a contract in Florida “by failing to perform acts required by the contract to be performed in this state.” If your business made a contract with a Florida resident, and payment was to be made in Florida, that satisfies the first half of the statute’s requirement.

The relationship between International and Moro met these criteria for the first half of the test. Moro made a contract with a Florida resident (International) and, since the parties’ agreement didn’t say where the payment was to be made, the law presumes that the payment was to be made at International’s place of business in Sarasota.

Even having met all of these criteria, there was still more to satisfy the long-arm statute. The law also required a second factor, which was that Moro had “sufficient minimum contacts” with Florida. This was the part that failed. Moro was an Alaska business. The plane in question was in Oregon. The buyer was from Iowa. The plane was inspected in Wisconsin, and the sale took place in Oklahoma. No one from Moro even set foot in Florida. Under these facts, Moro could not be considered to have adequate minimum contacts with Florida and was entitled to a dismissal of the lawsuit filed in this state.

For all of your commercial dispute needs, contact the skilled Florida business litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping both plaintiffs and defendants get the representation they deserve as they go through the litigation process.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

New York Broker Gets New Opportunity to Prove that It Was Entitled to Commission in Central Florida Commercial Lease Renewal, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Feb. 19, 2016

Commercial Property Broker Entitled to Enforce Lien to Collect Commission on Sale, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Feb. 3, 2015