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General Litigation and Construction Litigation FAQ

  • Q:Is there anything I can do after a default has been entered against me in a lawsuit?

    A:Yes, Florida has a strong preference for lawsuits to be determined on the merits and courts should liberally set aside defaults under appropriate circumstances. However, to aside a default judgment, a party must show excusable neglect, a meritorious defense and move diligently to vacate the default. If it is determined that the judgment entered is void, rather than voidable, on a proper motion, a trial court is obligated to set it aside at any time regardless of the passage of time. A judgment is void when it is entered by a court lacking jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case or jurisdiction over the person or where there is violation of due process. It is important to obtain legal representation immediately upon being sued, and in the unfortunate event of having a default entered, immediately upon learning of the default.

  • Q:How much time do I have to respond to a complaint after it has been served?

    A:The computation of time under the law is not something trivial that should ever be overlooked. There are strict deadlines under the law that parties are required to comply with. Unless a different time is prescribed in a statute of Florida (for example, a tenant only has five days to answer an eviction complaint), a defendant must respond to a lawsuit in Florida state courts within 20 days after service of original process and the initial pleading on the defendant and in federal courts within 21 days after service of original process and the initial pleading on the defendant.

  • Q:Are arbitration agreements enforceable?

    A:Yes, arbitration agreements are standard provisions found in many contracts, including employment agreements, waivers and releases and sales agreements. The issue of arbitrability frequently arises in litigation. One of the parties will dispute the validity of the arbitration provision or dispute whether the arbitration provision covers the claims at issue. Arbitration agreements are a favored means of dispute resolution, and doubts concerning their scope are generally resolved in favor of arbitration.

  • Q:Can I be sued in Florida if I am not a Florida resident?

    A:It depends. Generally, in order to bring a non-resident to Florida to defend a case for breach of contract, there must be more than an obligation to pay in the state to support constitutional due process requirements. Florida courts have consistently held that an obligation to pay in Florida alone is not enough, even if the parties agree in their contract to jurisdiction in Florida. In the context of business transactions, this outcome renders many transactions meaningless since creditors find themselves with guarantors (for example) who reside elsewhere, and creditors find themselves having to pursue individual guarantors in different jurisdictions. Fla. Stat. §§685.101-102 is an alternative long arm provision which enables parties to consent to jurisdiction in Florida if certain conditions exist. The contract between the parties must (1) include a choice of law provision designating Florida law as the governing law, (2) include a provision whereby the nonresident agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of the Florida courts, (3) involve consideration of not less than $250,000.00 and (4) either bear a substantial or reasonable relation to Florida or have at least one of the parties to the contract must be a resident of Florida or incorporated under its law.

  • Q:Can a contractor combine charges due under two contracts into a single claim of lien?

    A:No, Florida law prohibits the filing of a single claim of lien for charges under two direct contracts and a contractor’s failure to strictly comply with Florida’s lien laws can result in the loss of all lien rights.

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