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The Two Hurdles of Jurisdiction and Venue and Making Sure You Clear Them in Your Florida Commercial Litigation Action

When you decide that you want to pursue litigation to resolve a commercial dispute issue, there are several choices that you must make. One of those is where to file the lawsuit. You must make sure that the place you’ve selected is somewhere where the courts have jurisdiction and also somewhere that is an appropriate venue for the case. These are two different legal concepts and are governed by two separate legal standards. A shortcoming on either one, whether it is a lack of jurisdiction or improper venue, can result in your case being moved or dismissed. Contact a knowledgeable South Florida commercial litigation attorney to make sure your case has what it takes to clear all of the procedural hurdles.

A recent contract dispute in Florida was an example of this issue in action. The underlying dispute was one between an Alachua County church and a Martin County-based cell phone tower services provider. The church and the provider had a written management agreement that described the contents of their deal.

The relationship deteriorated and the provider sued, alleging breach of contract. The provider brought its case on its “home turf,” filing in Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, which is in Martin County. That led the church to fight back by filing a motion asking the judge dismiss the case or else to transfer it away from Martin County due to improper venue. The plaintiff asserted that Martin County was a proper venue because it was asking for liquidated damages payable in that county.

The trial court agreed with the plaintiff but the appeals court reversed, siding with the church. The key to this case was the nature of the damages that the plaintiff sought and the nature of venue law in Florida. If the damages were liquidated, as the plaintiff asserted they were, then Martin County would be a viable venue for the case, because Florida venue law says that, when a breach-of-contract plaintiff seeks payment of money due it, and the contract doesn’t specify where the payment is to be made, then the place where the creditor resides (which was Martin County in this instance) is an acceptable place for the case to proceed under what’s called the “place of payment rule.” However, if the damages are unliquidated, then the place of payment rule wouldn’t apply.

Florida law says that damages are liquidated if “the proper amount to be awarded can be determined with exactness from the cause of action as pleaded.” If the determination of the proper amount requires taking of testimony or other evidence, then damages are unliquidated.

The damages in the provider’s case were mostly unliquidated. The contract stated that the provider would collect sums, deduct a 10% fee and then pay the balance to the church. The damages that occurred as a result of the church’s failure to approve the extension “are not fixed amounts that leap out from the face of the complaint.” That meant the provider’s damages it sought were unliquidated, that the place of payment rule didn’t apply, that Martin County wasn’t a proper venue and that the church was entitled to an order transferring the case to Alachua County.

Whether you are negotiating a contract or litigating a contract breach, you need effective counsel who is experienced and knows how to get results. The diligent South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman have been successfully representing our business clients and helping advance their interests 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.

More blog posts:

Maryland Company Did Not ‘Purposefully Avail’ Itself and Thus Wasn’t Subject to the Jurisdiction of Florida Courts, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Oct. 19, 2018

How to Contest Jurisdiction in a Commercial Litigation Case in Florida, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Sept. 1, 2017