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Dealing with Non-Florida Defendants in Your Florida Commercial Litigation

South Florida is a vibrant commercial area, with people from many different states and countries doing business that may affect the area in one way or another. When a commercial venture ends up in litigation, there may be an issue as to whether a person can be sued in the Florida courts. A recent 3d District Court of Appeal case involving corporate shareholders from both Miami and Barbados illustrates what is needed in order to bring someone from outside Florida into a Florida court.

The case revolved around the sale of shares of Kingsland Estates Limited, an entity created to hold certain real estate parcels in Barbados. Over time, another entity, Classic Investments, Ltd., purchased all of Kingsland’s stock except that owned by Marjorie Knox, who lived in Miami. Knox launched numerous lawsuits accusing multiple individuals involved with Kingsland of attempting to defraud the woman by misrepresenting the value of her stock and seeking to force her to divest her stock for less than its full worth.

The most recent action alleged that the individuals engaged in conspiracy and defamation and that they violated Florida’s civil racketeering statute. Even though many of the individuals named in the lawsuit were located in Barbados, and they sought to be dismissed from the case on the ground that the Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over them, the trial court nevertheless decided that the case could proceed.

The Barbados defendants appealed that ruling, and the appeals court determined that the Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over them. The court explained that, when faced with a defendant located outside Florida, two issues must be analyzed. First, the court must decide if the person bringing the lawsuit has alleged sufficient misconduct to give the Florida courts jurisdiction under the long-arm statute. Second, the court must conclude that the person filing suit has adequately shown that the accused person has sufficient contact with the state.

Knox’s lawsuit alleged that some unknown individuals made threatening and derogatory statements in an online blog managed in Miami by Knox’s daughter, sent false financial statements to Knox regarding her Kingsland shares’ value, and lied under oath about the price per share of Knox’s holdings.

Knox was not able to identify the authors of the allegedly defamatory blog comments. Without evidence to tie the Barbados defendants to the blog content, that could not serve as the basis for extending the Florida courts’ jurisdiction over them. Also, the false financial statements claim stemmed only from the alleged failure to include certain miscellaneous information in Kingsland’s audited annual financial statements, and the alleged false statement under oath happened in litigation that occurred in Barbados.

None of these things was enough to trigger Florida’s long-arm statute, and they were also insufficient to establish the necessary minimum contacts with Florida, the appeals court decided. As a result, the appeals court ordered that the Barbados defendants be dismissed from the case.

When a commercial litigation involves parties from outside Florida, this may present an extra level of difficulty for your case. Experienced legal counsel can help you navigate and clear these hurdles. Talk to the skilled Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our hardworking attorneys can help you manage your case.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

Litigation Against Employees Forces Florida Safety Appliance Company to Disclose Financial Documents, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, May 5, 2015

Lack of Trial Transcript Dooms Appeal Challenging the Nature of Contract Between Warehouse Owner and Contractor, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, March 25, 2015

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