Sometimes, commercial litigation actions come down primarily to merits. One side’s facts were stronger than the other side’s, and the former received a successful result. Other times, however, success in a commercial litigation action is less about the facts; it comes down to the law and the rules of procedure, using those effectively to achieve a winning outcome. Giving yourself the best chance of success means making sure you have a Florida commercial litigation attorney who can effectively represent you both in your factual arguments and your legal ones.
A recent South Florida case was an example of procedural rules, litigation strategies, and the profound impacts both can have. The case was a battle between two creditors regarding which creditor’s lien had priority. One of the creditors was based in Miami Beach, the other was a Panamanian entity. The case started when the Miami Beach entity’s predecessor-in-interest filed an action in state court in Miami-Dade County.
At some point, the Miami Beach entity sought, and obtained, a default judgment in the case. Default judgments can be helpful tools in obtaining relief from the courts, even though the opposing party has refused to participate in the litigation. In order for a default to be valid, though, the plaintiff must ensure that the defendant received service of process that complied with the law.
That service requirement was the centerpiece of the Panamanian entity’s argument in the appeals court. It asserted that the method of service of process that the plaintiff used did not meet the law’s requirements. Florida law is very clear that a “judgment entered without valid service is void for lack of personal jurisdiction.”
There was a major problem for the Panamanian entity’s position, however. While the law says that a judgment is generally void without valid service due to a lack of personal jurisdiction, there are actions the defendant can take that trigger personal jurisdiction, which would nullify any argument that the courts lacked personal jurisdiction over that defendant. One such trigger is if the defendant actively sought affirmative relief from the court. In this case, the Panamanian entity sought affirmative relief in the form of a ruling on the merits stating that its lien had priority over that of the Miami Beach entity.
By appearing in court, making that argument and asking for that relief from the trial court judge, the Panamanian entity voluntarily subjected itself to the jurisdiction of the court in Miami. The functional effect of its seeking that relief was that it waived any future arguments about the court’s jurisdiction over it, including those based upon the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s method of service of process.
For the helpful advice and diligent representation you need for your commercial litigation action, contact the skilled South Florida business attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our experienced team has been skillfully helping clients protect their business interests 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.
More blog posts:
Getting the Details Right: Making Sure Service of Process Doesn’t Derail Your Florida Commercial Litigation Case, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Jan. 26, 2018
Florida LLC’s Method of Serving Opponent in Brazil Sufficient to Allow its Tortious Interference Case to Go Forward, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, April 26, 2017