Business is more global than ever these days. With that comes many benefits. It also, however, raises the possibility of your being hauled into court in far-flung places in commercial litigation actions like breach of contract lawsuits. When that happens, you may have the possibility to avoid litigating in that place if you can show that the courts there don’t have jurisdiction over your business. To do that in a Florida case, though, you’ll need skillful South Florida legal counsel who can make the jurisdictional arguments you need.
A recent case from here in South Florida addressed the issue of what does or does not amount to the required amount of “minimum contacts” necessary to trigger the jurisdiction of Florida’s courts. The case involved one Miami-Dade County entity and one very long-distance entity. A Doral-based food company had allegedly contracted with a Canadian heating-and-air-conditioning (HVAC) company for the installation of an industrial air vacuum machine. At some point, the business relationship deteriorated, and the client sued the HVAC company for breach of contract.
The factual details of what went wrong between this Florida company and its Canadian contract partner weren’t really the most instructive part of this case. Rather, it was the issue of jurisdiction that would become the key. (The Canadian company sought to get the case thrown out of court by arguing that the Florida courts did not have jurisdiction over it.)
The Doral entity tried several arguments purportedly to demonstrate jurisdiction. It asserted that the Canadian company orally promised to improve the client’s existing air systems in this state. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant “envisioned a continuing relationship with Plaintiff in Florida by providing a ‘guarantee’ and a warranty over the equipment it provided” to the Doral entity. It also argued that jurisdiction in Florida was proper because the Canadian company had a website viewable in Florida and because it sold products here.
‘Mere existence of a website’ doesn’t trigger jurisdiction everywhere ‘the website is visible’
The Canadian company recognized these arguments (and their supporting proof) as insufficient, which is why its Florida attorneys, after the trial court denied its motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, promptly took the case to the Third District Court of Appeal.
The appeals court agreed with the Canadian entity. One of the important points that the court made in its ruling was that ““[t]he mere existence of a website does not show that a defendant is directing its business activities towards every forum where the website is visible.” Additionally, the Canadian company had strong evidence about its lack of ties to Florida, including proof that it had never advertised in Florida and that its Florida sales, from 2013-15, ranged from just under 1% to just under 0.5%, and that only around 0.3% of its website business came from Florida.
The Doral entity did not provide any sworn proof to refute that evidence by the HVAC company, which meant that the Canadian company’s evidence was enough to entitle it to a dismissal.
Whether you’re a Florida business seeking civil compensation here, or you’re an outside entity who has been sued here despite not having significant contacts with the Sunshine State, you should arm yourself with the representation of a knowledgeable attorney. The diligent South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman are here to help. Our attorneys have many years of experience handling a wide array of commercial litigation actions and are ready to get to work on your case.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you.