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Personal Jurisdiction Out Of Statedefendant Gettingsued In Florida

Whenever I get hired to represent an out-of-state individual or corporation who is being sued in the State of Florida, the first thing that I look at is whether the court here in Florida has “personal jurisdiction” over the defendant. If not, then the out-of-state defendant is not subject to the lawsuit in Florida. Personal jurisdiction is a two-part inquiry. First, the plaintiff’s Complaint has to allege facts that fall within the scope of Florida’s long-arm statute, §48.193, Florida Statutes. This statute lists the type of acts that – if properly pled in the Complaint – would ostensibly allow the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant. These acts include: operating, conducting or engaging in business in Florida; committing a tort (i.e., a civil wrong such as assault & battery, defamation etc.); owning, using, or possessing any real property within the state; and, breaching a contract.

The second inquiry is whether the defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the State of Florida so as to satisfy federal due process standards. That is, does the defendant have sufficient “minimum contacts” with Florida such that he should reasonably anticipate having to defend against a lawsuit in Florida.

Both parts of the two-part inquiry must be satisfied before the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. Thus, even if the plaintiff’s Complaint sufficiently alleges facts that fall within the long-arm statute, the court will not obtain jurisdiction over the defendant if the federal due process test is not met.

Procedurally, assuming plaintiff’s Complaint alleges facts to establish long-arm jurisdiction, the defendant will file a Motion to Dismiss (sometimes including a Motion to Quash Service of Process) based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Included as part of this Motion will be one or more affidavits that refute the allegations of long-arm jurisdiction, and/or refutes any claim that the defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the State of Florida. If properly refuted, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to come forward with his own affidavits to rebut the defendant’s affidavit(s). If the plaintiff fails to come forward with affidavits that specifically rebut the defendant’s affidavits, then the trial court should dismiss the case against the defendant. Sometimes, however, the trial court finds that the affidavits cannot be “reconciled.” Meaning, that the court cannot tell by reading the affidavits whether they rebut one another. When this happens the court holds a limited evidentiary hearing during which both parties present evidence on the issue of personal jurisdiction. The court then rules on whether or not there is personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

An out-of-state defendant who is sued by a Florida plaintiff has a potent weapon in the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Successfully getting the defendant dismissed from the case at the outset will give the defendant peace of mind in having avoided a judgment against him, and, will save him thousands of dollars in litigation fees and costs.


2 Comments
Charles9/16/2015 14:37:13

Just sued a company for breach of contract and auto dealer fraud and was dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. How is that possible when contract states that title to car was to be released when paid off but the vin number on title that was sent through us mail dont match on contract or car. Also the other breach was a bad check they wrote me to help with repairs. Where is the justice in that?

ReplyNora Alexander1/22/2016 11:45:33

I am involved in a case right now where a motion to dismiss has been filed. My question is the defendant lived in Georgia and owned a home there when the tortious acts were committed. He moved to Florida later before a suit was able to be filed. At what point does the part of in the long arm statute as to owning real property apply.. At the time acts were committed or when the lawsuit was filed?