What gives someone the right to sue you in Florida?
Well, it's a matter of jurisdiction. When a court has sufficient authority over a situation, that's referred to as its jurisdiction. In essence, that means that the court has the ability to enforce its rulings on the parties involved. A court must have both personal jurisdiction (power over the entity or individual being sued) and subject matter jurisdiction (the ability to hear the particular type of issue being raised).
Usually, subject matter jurisdiction is fairly easy to sort out. Sometimes, however, figuring out just what court has personal jurisdiction over a particular issue can be trickier than it seems -- but it's the first thing that has to be figured out in order to file a lawsuit.
Here's how Florida can take personal jurisdiction in a case:
- You were in the state when you were served with the complaint against you -- even if you were just passing through for a business meeting or staying in a hotel for the night.
- You have a residence or place of business in the state. It's always possible to be sued in the state in which you have your business physically located or incorporated.
- You agree to the jurisdiction. There are numerous reasons that you might do so -- ranging from personal convenience to the notion that some state courts are perceived as "friendlier" to business interests than others.
- You have enough minimum contacts with the state. This is often the trickiest issue to determine (and most hotly contested). For example, imagine that you own a ski resort in another state, but you heavily advertise in Florida. That might be enough to allow Florida to take jurisdiction. Similarly, maybe some of your top suppliers or clients are in Florida. Again, that might be all it takes.
If you're confused about the legitimacy of a Florida lawsuit against your business, it's smart to get some experienced legal advice early in the situation.