Personal Jurisdiction – Long-Arm Statute or Alter Ego Theory?

By Michael P. Sampson (part 4 of 8)

Personal Jurisdiction Long Arm Statute or Alter Ego. Colorful extended hands. Image by Tim Mossholder (Unsplash)

A spouse may attempt to bring in a corporate entity or trust into the divorce either under Florida’s Long Arm Statute or on an alter-ego theory. Under the Long Arm Statute, the spouse must pass a two-pronged test for establishing personal jurisdiction over a foreign entity.  Instead, the spouse may assert personal jurisdiction is established because the entity is merely the “alter ego” of the other spouse. 

Personal jurisdiction refers to whether the actions of an individual or business entity permit the Florida court to exercise jurisdiction in a lawsuit naming the individual or business entity. See Borden v. East-European Ins. Co., 921 So. 2d 587 (Fla. 2006)See generally section 48.193, Florida StatutesWhite v. Pepsico, Inc., 568 So. 2d 886, 888 (Fla. 1990)Venetian Salami Co. v. Parthenais, 554 So. 2d 499 (Fla.1989) (to subject a defendant to personal jurisdiction, “due process requires that the defendant have certain minimum contacts with the forum”).

Long Arm Statute

First prong: Specific Jurisdiction or General Jurisdiction

Long arm jurisdiction over a foreign corporation or entity may be specific. See sections 48.193(1)(a)-(h), Florida Statutes. Specific jurisdiction is where the defendant either personally or through an agent does any of the acts enumerated in those subsections.

Alternatively long arm jurisdiction may be general. See section 48.193(2), Florida Statutes. General jurisdiction may lie when a defendant is “engaged in substantial and not isolated activity.” See Marina Dodge, Inc. v. Quinn, 134 So. 3d 1103 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014)(good analysis of specific and general jurisdiction, resulting in reversal of order denying motion to dismiss personal injury suit for lack of personal jurisdiction).

Specific or General Jurisdiction: Are the Entity’s Florida Contacts the Basis for the Spouse’s Claims Against It?

If an entity’s contacts with Florida are also the basis for the suit, those contacts may establish specific jurisdiction. See section 48.193(1)(a)-(h), Florida StatutesMarina Dodge, Inc. v. Quinn, 134 So. 3d 1103 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014) (affidavits revealed few contacts between Florida and the defendant, which had engaged in isolated transactions with Florida companies, mostly over the Internet, without having targeted Florida for business); Caiazzo v. American Royal Arts Corp., 73 So. 3d 245 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (applying traditional minimum contacts analysis, whether or not the Internet is involved); Canale v. Rubin, 20 So. 3d 463 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009)

Businessman reading paper

In determining specific jurisdiction, courts consider:

  1. the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in Florida;
  2. whether the claims arise out of those activities directed at Florida; and
  3. whether the defendant’s contacts with Florida are so the defendant should reasonably anticipate being brought into court in Florida. 

See Corporacion Aero Angeles, S.A. v. Fernandez, 69 So. 3d 295 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011).

Alternatively, if an entity’s contacts with Florida are not also the basis for the claims, jurisdiction must arise from the entity’s general, more persistent, but unrelated contacts with Florida. Fla. Stat. §48.193(2).

For more discussion about long arm jurisdiction – specific or general – keep reading here.

Read More

1: Corporation and Trust Challenges to Service of Process and Jurisdiction

2: Challenge to Personal Jurisdiction: Service of Process

3: Family Law Pleadings Must Allege Basis for Personal Jurisdiction Over the Entity

5: Long-Arm Jurisdiction: Specific or General?

6: Alter Ego Basis for Jurisdiction in Florida Family Law Action

7: Jurisdiction Over Property At Issue in Florida Divorce

8: Challenges to Jurisdiction in Florida Family Law Action: Affidavits

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