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Establishing ‘Minimum Contacts’ to Make Sure Your Florida Commercial Litigation Action Stays in Florida

When you are involved in a commercial dispute, there may be several hurdles you have to face as the party bringing the lawsuit. One hurdle that some commercial litigation plaintiffs may face is an argument that the case cannot be tried in the location where you’ve filed your lawsuit. Whether your opponent’s challenge is one of jurisdiction or forum, losing this challenge could force you into trying your case in someplace less favorable and more inconvenient for your business. You likely had important strategic and business reasons why you picked the Florida courts, and you should make sure that you have experienced and aggressive Florida commercial litigation attorneys by your side to protect your lawsuit.

An example of a plaintiff that was able to successfully preserve its Florida case was a dispute between a dentist and his clinics’ management services company. An was a dentist with four dental practice offices in north Texas. In 2013, the dentist entered into a territory agreement with a South Florida-based LLC, merging his practices into the LLC’s system. The arrangement called for the LLC to provide administrative and practice management-related services. In exchange, the LLC received a monthly service fee.

In 2016, the dentist cut off the relationship between his clinics and the LLC. That led the LLC to sue the dentist for terminating the parties’ contract without cause. In response to the LLC’s suing in Florida, the dentist asked the Broward County judge to dismiss the case. The dentist’s argument was that the contract he signed with the LLC did not require him or his clinics to do anything in Florida, and, as a dentist located in Texas, he and the clinics did not have enough contact with Florida to give the Florida courts jurisdiction to resolve the dispute.

The LLC’s argument was that the dentist had contracted to pay monthly service fees to the LLC in Florida, so there was an adequate connection between Florida and the dispute to allow the case here to go forward.

The trial court and the court of appeal sided with the LLC. One way that you can establish an opposing party’s connection to the state where you desire to litigate a contract dispute is to use the payments that were made under the contract. If the contract says that payments should be sent to a particular state, that contract provision may be enough to meet the requirement for jurisdiction.

In this case, the contract did not state where the dentist was supposed to send the LLC’s monthly service fees. When there is no contract term, you are entitled to use proof related to how you and the other party actually performed. In this case, the LLC had proof that the dentist sent monthly service payments to the LLC in Florida for a year before the dentist stopped the payments entirely.

The clinics also had enough contact with Florida to allow the Broward County-based litigation action to go ahead. The LLC, in its Sunrise office, had access to the clinics’ daily reports and bank accounts. The LLC regularly sent invoices and reports. Essentially, due to the contractual arrangement, the clinics’ administrative tasks and practice management tasks were conducted by the LLC from the LLC’s office in Sunrise, which meant that the clinics had ample contact with Florida.

Whether you are a Florida entity seeking to litigate your commercial dispute in Florida, or you are a long-distance entity seeking to avoid remote litigation carried out in this state, it is important to have experienced Florida counsel protecting your interests. The aggressive South Florida contract litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have been helping business clients with a wide array of commercial litigation issues for many years.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.

More blog posts:

How the Lack of a Skilled Florida Business Attorney Derailed One Plaintiff’s Breach of Contract Lawsuit, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Feb. 14, 2018

What It Takes to Win a Forum Non Conveniens Motion in Florida, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Jan. 12, 2018