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Questions on Jurisdiction? Don’t Wait, Ask For An Evidentiary Hearing at the Onset of Litigation

May 27, 2016 in Case Law Updates by

In Leopoldo Castillo v. Concepto Uno of Miami, Inc., the 3rd DCA expounded on the procedure for challenging personal jurisdiction. The case cites the Florida Supreme Court case, Venetian Salami Co. v. Parthenais, 554 So. 2d, 499 (Fla. 1989) which outlined the two-prong test to be applied by Florida trial courts in determining whether personal jurisdiction may properly be exercised over a defendant.

The Venetian Salami Co. case explained that first, the court must determine whether “the complaint alleges sufficient jurisdictional facts to bring the action within the ambit of’ Florida’s long-arm statute, section 48.193, Florida Statutes (2015), and second, if the complaint does allege sufficient jurisdictional facts, “the next inquiry is whether sufficient ‘minimum contacts’ are demonstrated to satisfy due process requirements.” Id. “A defendant wishing to contest the allegations of the complaint concerning jurisdiction or to raise a contention of minimum contacts must file affidavits in support of his position. The burden is then placed upon the plaintiff to prove by affidavit the basis upon which jurisdiction may be obtained.” Id. Where the affidavits cannot be reconciled, the trial court is required to hold a limited evidentiary hearing to determine the jurisdictional issue. Id. at 503.

In this case, Castillo filed an affidavit contesting Concepto Uno’s jurisdictional allegations in the verified complaint, but Concepto Uno filed no subsequent affidavit in response and presented no other evidence in support of those allegations. The appellate court held that the verified Complaint could be considered sufficient pursuant to Tobacco Merchants Ass’n of U.S. v. Brain, 657 So. 2d 939, 941 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995) which stated that “[o]ther competent sworn proof, such as depositions, a verified complaint or documents, may substitute for the affidavit to support the parties’ allegations as to jurisdiction.”

The Court further ruled that given the fact that there were competing, sworn, allegations regarding jurisdiction, the lower court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing at the onset of this case to resolve the disputed jurisdictional facts.

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