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You Can’t Force A Non-Resident To Defend Lawsuit In Florida Just Because They Agreed That Florida Law Governs Their Contract Disputes.

Suppose you or your business has been sued in Florida, but you or your business are not Florida residents. In that case, the first question that should be addressed with an attorney is whether a Florida court has personal jurisdiction over you or your business. Personal jurisdiction can be waived if not timely and properly raised, so it is essential to consider personal jurisdiction issues before taking any action in your lawsuit.

The Third District Court of Appeal in the case of Williamson v. Prime Sports Marketing, LLC, 2020 WL 7049996 (Fla. 3d DCA December 2, 2020) recently addressed the issue of personal jurisdiction over non-Florida residents, reversing the trial court’s denial of the non-Florida resident defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

In Williamson, a North Carolina resident entered into a contract with the plaintiff, a Florida resident. The defendant executed the contract at his residence in North Carolina. The contract contained a choice of law provision stating that the contract was to be governed by Florida law. In response to being sued in Florida, the defendant filed an affidavit stating that he is not a Florida resident and that none of his interactions with the plaintiff occurred in or related to Florida. The plaintiff filed an affidavit in opposition, focusing on the plaintiff’s connections to Florida and the non-resident’s communications to the plaintiff, who was located in Florida.

The Third District Court of Appeal reiterated that a choice of law provision alone is insufficient to subject a non-resident to personal jurisdiction in the state of Florida. The court further noted that personal jurisdiction conferred by contract must comply with Fla. Stat. §685.102(1)(2020), which includes, among other requirements, that the non-resident “agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state.” The court also addressed and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the non-resident defendant was “operating, conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business venture” in Florida where the plaintiff identified one instance where the non-resident defendant performed business in Florida, but it was unrelated to the plaintiff’s claim.

Rosenthal Law Group can assist you in determining whether Florida courts have personal jurisdiction over you or your business and routinely successfully litigate such jurisdictional matters in trial courts.