If yours is an entity based outside Florida that does not do business in Florida, you may think you would have no need for legal services in Florida. That’s not necessarily true. It is still entirely possible to be hauled into court in Florida in a commercial litigation action, even if you have no contacts with the Sunshine State. In order to avoid having to defend yourself here, you’ll need to win a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doing that often requires a clear and complete understanding of Florida jurisdiction law. In other words, you need an experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorney.
As an example of how this can happen, take the recent case of one Oregon entity. The lawsuit arose after a Coral Springs-based auto transport company signed an agreement with a Portland, Oregon-based auto entity for the delivery of certain vehicles. According to the transport company, the contract called for the transport of 39 vehicles. Allegedly, the vehicles business paid for exactly three. The Oregon business agreed that it paid for only three but argued that it contracted for only three. The other 36 were the result of an agreement made by a sales associate who lacked the authority to enter contracts, according to the vehicle business. Also, the Oregon company alleged that it received only three vehicles, and the other 36 were never delivered.
The key to this dispute, at this point in the litigation, wasn’t whether the associate had legal authority to sign a contract or what became of the other 36 vehicles, it was where the case could be tried. The transport company sought to litigate the breach of contract case in Broward County. The Oregon business sought a dismissal of the action filed in Broward, arguing that the Florida courts lacked personal jurisdiction over it. The appeals court ultimately agreed with the Oregon company.
There are two parts to determining whether the Florida courts have personal jurisdiction over a person or entity. First, the plaintiff’s complaint must include the correct assertions to trigger Florida’s “long-arm” jurisdiction statute. If the plaintiff makes the required allegations, the courts must determine whether the defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with Florida to give the Florida legal system jurisdiction over that defendant.
The transport company had cleared met the first requirement. It alleged that the client had failed to pay a debt that was due in Florida. (Failure to pay a contractual debt owed in Florida is enough to trigger the long-arm statute.)
No evidence that the Oregon defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with Florida
While that allegation triggered the long-arm statute, it was not enough to demonstrate sufficient minimum contacts. When a situation exists where no act is supposed to take place in Florida other than repayment of the debt, that is insufficient to establish minimum contacts under Florida law. The facts of this case demonstrated that none of the vehicle in the dispute were to be shipped to the Oregon company in Florida, and none were transported from Florida.
Based on all of that evidence, the Oregon company was entitled to its motion to dismiss.
Even if your business has no contacts in Florida, you may need a skilled Florida attorney if someone tries to force you to litigate a breach of contract dispute here. To protect your business’s rights and interests, reach out to the South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our lawyers have been helping clients, both those inside and outside the Sunshine State, to achieve positive results for many years.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you.