When you’ve been wronged – and suffered harm – in a commercial activity, there is a great deal of decision-making in which you must engage as a result. One thing you should know, once you’ve decided to seek compensation in court, is what is – and what isn’t – a proper venue. To do that, rely on a knowledgeable South Florida commercial litigation attorney for the advice you need.
If you’ve suffered a breach of contract in Florida, any trial court in the state has jurisdiction, but not all of them are proper venues for your lawsuit. Determining which counties are proper venues is very important, especially in a state like Florida with its peculiar geography. If your business is based in Miami-Dade County, there is a massive difference in terms of the overall costs of litigating a case in the Seventeenth Circuit as opposed to the First Circuit. The Seventeenth Circuit is in Fort Lauderdale, only 30 miles away. The First Circuit, located in Pensacola, is more than 670 miles away. The latter, of course, will cost you much more in terms of both time and money.
A recent case offers insight into how this process of venue determination works under Florida law. The case involved a property restoration company, a Bay County-based subcontractor and their breach of contract dispute. The subcontractor sued in Bay County after the restoration company allegedly failed to pay sums that were due.
The restoration company argued that the proper venue was Seminole County, not Bay County. To give you an idea of the difference involved, the court in Bay County is in Panama City and the court in Seminole County is in Deland, which is roughly 380 miles to the southeast of Panama City.
The courts determined that Bay County was a proper venue for the subcontractor’s action, and that the subcontractor was entitled under the law to continue litigating there.
One of the reasons the case remained in Bay County was that Bay County was the venue the subcontractor selected. In Florida, the choice of a “venue is the prerogative of the plaintiff, and courts will not disturb the selection so long as it is proper as provided in the Florida Statutes.”
The places where you can pursue your case and comply with the venue statutes
So, what venues are proper under the Florida Statutes? It depends on the details of the case. In a situation where the defendant you’ve sued is an out-of-state corporation (as was the case here,) then the Florida Statutes say that any Florida county where the defendant “has an agent or other representative” is a proper venue. The statute also says the county where the “cause of action accrued” – in this case, where the breach occurred – is also a proper venue.
If the defense wants to contest venue, then the defense must provide sufficient evidence in support of its venue contest. If it does that, then the law gives you an additional opportunity to provide proof that supports your claim of proper venue.
In this breach of contract case, the restoration company had considerable evidence to support its argument that it had no representative or agent in Bay County. What it lacked, however, was any proof that the breach did not occur, and the cause of action did not accrue, in Bay County. In the absence of that proof, the restoration company had failed to carry “its initial burden to controvert venue,” and was not entitled to a change of venue.
In the event of a breach of contract dispute, having a firm grip on your venue options is extremely important. Whether you’re decided on a venue, deciding on experts, deciding on settling versus continuing litigation, or making some other vitally important decision, be sure you have the benefit of quality legal advice. Count on the experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman, to provide you with the sound advice and effective advocacy your business deserves.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.