When you are suing a business entity in Florida, one of the things you must be able to demonstrate is that the entity you’ve sued has what the law calls sufficient “minimum contacts” with the jurisdiction where you’ve brought your case. If you don’t have this proof, then the defendant may well be able to file a successful motion to dismiss, with the judge ruling that the court lacks jurisdiction to enter a judgment against the defendant. To make sure that your breach of contract action doesn’t get scuttled by this or other procedural problems, be sure you have representation from a skilled South Florida commercial litigation attorney.
There are several ways that you can establish personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state entity under what’s nicknamed Florida’s “Long Arm” statute. If, for example, the defendant engages in business in this state, breached a contract here, owns real estate in the Sunshine State, or “was engaged in solicitation or service activities within this state,” then any of those activities can trigger jurisdiction and allow you to pursue that entity in the Florida courts. (There are other bases listed in the statute, as well.)
These issues were at the center of one recent breach-of-contract lawsuit. The underlying disagreement was one over aircraft parts. One of the parties, a California-based company, held the parts in dispute at its facility in Los Angeles County. However, the other party, when deciding to pursue legal action, brought its case in state court in Miami-Dade County. This led the defendant company to ask the Florida judge to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The defendant’s argument was that the Florida courts lacked personal jurisdiction over it.
The plaintiff in this case had a significant problem, according to the appeals court. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was in the aircraft part repair business, but had no evidence that the California company performed any of its repairs in Florida. The contractual and contract-related documents the plaintiff offered also fell short. Although they detailed various jobs to be done, nothing demonstrated that the defendant worked on parts, picked up parts or even contracted to work on parts in Florida.
All of that meant that the plaintiff’s proof fell short in terms of demonstrating that the defendant had the necessary minimum contacts with Florida. For that reason, the law required dismissal of the case without prejudice. That “without prejudice” part meant that the plaintiff potentially could re-file against the California company once it had better evidence of personal jurisdiction.
Be aware that you only have a limited time to re-file
There is a peripheral procedural issue of which you should be aware, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in a case like this. That issue is that the “clock” for the statute of limitations keeps running. So, if your initial filing is dismissed without prejudice for lack of proof of personal jurisdiction, and you decide to re-file here, then you must get that new pleading in before the limitations period elapses. If you don’t, the defendant can very likely obtain an order dismissing your complaint with prejudice for being untimely.
Whether you are seeking damages for, or defending, a breach of contract case, you need to be sure you have the legal representation it takes to get the result you need. The experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman have been helping business clients for many years to work toward the positive outcomes they seek.
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:
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
Shortcoming of ‘Long-Arm’ Jurisdiction Argument Leaves Consulting Firm Unable to Pursue Defendant’s President in Florida, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2017