In suing a person or entity located in another state for personal injury, the first question is often not “what?” or “how?”, but “where?” In Oldock v. DL&B Enterprises, Inc., Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal explains the requirements for suing an out-of-state company in Florida.
Plaintiffs Stephen and Laurie Oldock, Florida residents, filed a personal injury lawsuit in Collier County Circuit Court against Defendant DL&B Enterprises, Inc., stemming from an incident in which Mr. Oldock was severely injured by a forklift operated by a DL&B employee in an accident on Defendant’s property in North Carolina. The circuit court dismissed the action based on lack of personal jurisdiction.
The term “long-arm” jurisdiction refers to situations in which a state court extends its jurisdiction to cover a person or entity in another state. In order to exercise such jurisdiction in Florida, a court must determine that both the requirements of the state’s long-arm statute have been met and that the out of state person or entity has sufficient “minimum contacts” to Florida to justify the jurisdiction.
DL&B is a produce grower in North Carolina owned by Doug and Linda Wilson that employs agents to sell its produce. Beginning in 1991, DL&B hired the Florida company for which Mr. Oldock worked, Six L’s, as its exclusive sales agency. In 2002, they created King Farms and incorporated the new business in Florida. Mr. Oldock maintained a 50 percent ownership interest in the company; each of the Wilsons held a 25 percent ownership interest. They maintained a King Farms sales office on DL&B’s premises in North Carolina. Shortly after incorporating, King Farms’ operation was moved to North Carolina. Almost all of DL&B’s revenue came from King Farm sales during this time and roughly 30 percent of sales were shipped to Florida buyers.
Citing Am. Fin. Trading Corp. v. Bauer, 828 So.2d 1071, 1075 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002), the district court noted that where a nonresident defendant has initiated and maintained “continuous and systematic business contacts” in Florida for monetary gain, this is sufficient to satisfy both the long-arm statute and the minimum contacts requirement. “For more than twenty years,” the court ruled, “DL&B has been continuously and systematically initiating and maintaining exclusive business relationships with Florida companies…to sell its produce for pecuniary gain.” As a result, the circuit court improperly dismissed the action based on lack of personal jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction – over both the person being sued and the subject matter of the suit – is but one of a whole host of issues that arises in a personal injury lawsuit. Getting into the right court is simply the first hurdle. A plaintiff must then prove that his or her injury was caused by the actions of the person or entity being sued. The legal term “negligence” is the most common theory of recovery for those injured in any type of accident, including car, aviation and motorcycle accidents as well as incidents of medical malpractice.
The South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience bringing negligence claims on behalf of clients. If you were injured in an accident due to another person’s negligent behavior, call us for a free consultation. Our Ft. Lauderdale lawyers can speak with you about whether you might be entitled to compensation for your injury. You can reach our offices at 800-747-3733 or submit an on-line form to contact us today.
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