If yours is a business entity based outside Florida and you find yourself facing litigation in the Sunshine State, it is important to have a skilled Florida commercial litigation attorney on your side. Whether you are seeking to get the cased dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction or whether you are litigating here, you need experienced legal counsel who knows how to achieve the success you need.
When it comes to a business entity’s assertions of a lack of personal jurisdiction, the standard in Florida has evolved in recent years. A recent case from Palm Beach County highlights that change and what it means for out-of-state businesses or those seeking to sue out-of-state businesses in Florida.
The underlying case was a tortious interference action that related to a contract for the financing of a dolphin park. The investment bank that closed the deal for financing, and that was accused of engaging in the tortious conduct, maintained a small presence in an office tower in Palm Beach Gardens, but the bank maintained its primary headquarters in Southern California.
All of this geography mattered when the plaintiff sued, as the case was filed in Florida. The bank was a Delaware entity and had its principal place of business in California, so it asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that Florida courts didn’t have personal jurisdiction over it.
The trial judge rejected the request, pointing to the Palm Beach Gardens office. The maintenance of that office showed that the bank maintained “systematic, regular contact” with Florida, which in turn meant that Florida courts had jurisdiction over it, according to the court.
The Supreme Court has increased due process protections for out-of-state entities
The bank appealed and, based on its success in that case, got another crack at arguing its lack-of-jurisdiction assertion. The appeals court, in ruling for the bank, stated that the trial judge used the wrong legal standard to decide whether or not personal jurisdiction existed. While the legal standard used to be just “continuous and systematic general business contacts,” recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have expanded the constitutional due process rights of out-of-state business entities.
Under the new standard, an out-of-state entity can win a lack-of-personal-jurisdiction argument as long as it can show that its contacts with the state where the case was filed were not “so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home” in that state.
The bank had a Florida office and served Florida customers in Florida. However, that proof may or may not have been enough to show that the bank was “at home” in Florida. Determining that required another hearing.
Whether yours is a breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty or tortious interference case, and whether you are in the pretrial phase, trial phase or post-trial process, you need the right attorneys working for you. The knowledgeable South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman have a long track record of helping our business clients to use the legal system to protect their interests and achieve positive results.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you.