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Possible Options When You’ve Been Named as a Defendant in a Commercial Litigation Action in Florida But You Don’t Do Business in the State

There are many things your business may have to address, and knowing how to respond effectively is essential. One of these may be facing a lawsuit in some far-away jurisdiction where you don’t operate. What you definitely should not do is simply ignore the case. If you find yourself as the defendant in a commercial litigation action in Florida when you have no contacts with Florida, you need to contact a knowledgeable Florida attorney. Your skilled South Florida commercial litigation attorney can go to court for you for the express limited purpose of getting that lawsuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. That way, you will not be in peril of a potentially damaging judgment that could result if you made the mistake of just ignoring the lawsuit.

A recent case from the Tampa Bay area is good example of a proper response. The case involved two companies engaged in a tortious interference action. The plaintiff’s case asserted that the defendant induced an engineer to leave his job with the plaintiff to take a managerial position within the defendant’s Virginia office.

The plaintiff was a Florida corporation headquartered in St. Petersburg and the plaintiff sued in state court in Pinellas County. The defendant, however, was a California corporation based in San Diego, and did not want to face a trial in Florida. The California company retained local counsel and asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. This was a wise move.

Two types of personal jurisdiction

In the law, there are two types of personal jurisdiction. One type is general jurisdiction, and the other is specific jurisdiction. The type that the plaintiff asserted against this defendant was specific jurisdiction. In order for specific jurisdiction to exist, the defendant must have had what the law calls “sufficient minimum contacts” with the place where the lawsuit was filed.

In this Pinellas County case, the defendant argued that it had contacts with Florida, but that the basis of the plaintiff’s lawsuit did “not relate to or arise from” the defendant’s activities in Florida, which would mean that there was no specific jurisdiction. The appeals court concluded that the California company was entitled to the dismissal it sought. The fact that the California company’s allegedly tortious conduct caused a breach in a Florida contract and the fact that the plaintiff suffered lost income in Florida were, by law, “immaterial for the purpose of determining jurisdiction.”

This plaintiff did not provide the court with proof or allegations of “where or how” the defendant communicated with the engineer and persuaded him to leave the plaintiff and work in the defendant’s Virginia office. If the plaintiff had made allegations, for example, that a representative of the defendant had flown to Florida and had held a dinner meeting in Tampa with the engineer to discuss the California company’s offer, then that might been the sort of evidence that could have amounted to trigger jurisdiction.

The plaintiff didn’t have that proof that it needed, so the California company was entitled to its dismissal.

Simply not having contacts with Florida is not enough to avoid a Florida judgment being entered against your business. You need the right Florida legal counsel to get that case thrown out before a judgment is entered. Whether you’re needing to get a case in Florida dismissed or you are needing to get ready for trial, you need powerful legal counsel upon whom you can confidently rely. Count on the skilled South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman to provide the effective legal representation your business needs.

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

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