Business and Business Litigation Blog

Suing a Non-Florida Resident in Florida

By: Brent V. Trapana

When an individual or entity is wronged, many times, litigation ensues.  However, where that litigation takes place depends on what court the defendant can be sued in.  In order for a non-Florida resident to be sued in Florida, the Florida court must have what is called personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant.  To determine whether they have personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants, Florida courts must undertake a two-step analysis. First, courts must consider whether Florida’s long-arm statute—Florida Statutes Section 48.193—has been satisfied.  Venetian Salami Co. v. Parthenais, 554 So. 2d 499, 502 (Fla. 1989). Second, if Florida’s long-arm statute has been satisfied, courts must then consider whether exercising personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant is proper under the U.S. Constitution.

Long Arm Statute

To exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, a Florida court must initially determine either specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction exists pursuant to Florida’s long-arm statute.  Caiazzo v. American Royal Arts Corp., 73 So. 3d 245, 250 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011).  Specific jurisdiction exists when the defendant does one of the acts listed in subsection (1)(a) of the long arm statute and the plaintiff’s claim “arises from” that act.  Id. at 256.  For a plaintiff’s claim to “arise from” the defendant’s acts, there must be a “direct affiliation, nexus, or substantial connection” between the basis for the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s business activity in the state. Ferguson v. Estate of Campana, 47 So. 3d 838, 842 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).  Unlike specific jurisdiction, general jurisdiction exists when the defendant’s connection with Florida is so substantial, in general, that one of the acts listed in subsection (1)(a) is unnecessary .  Caiazzo, 73 So. 3d at 250.

Constitutional Due Process/Minimum Contacts

The second requirement to the exercise of jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is that the non-resident defendant must have sufficient minimum contacts within Florida.  American Financial Trading Corp. v. Bauer, 828 So. 2d 1071, 1075 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002); Caiazzo, 73 So. 3d at 251.  This minimum contacts rule is derived from U.S. Constitutional due process requirements. Caiazzo, 73 So. 3d at 251; Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474 (1985). Courts generally find minimum contacts exist if it can be determined that (1) the defendant could have reasonably anticipated that its conduct would result in suit in Florida, and (2) the defendant purposefully availed itself of Florida’s privileges and protections.  Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Brewer, 602 So. 2d 1264, 1268 (Fla. 1992).    In addition, courts must also make a “reasonableness determination”, because an exercise of jurisdiction that is unreasonable would offend constitutional due process. Caiazzo at 25253.  To determine whether an exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable, “a court must consider the burden on the defendant, the interests of the forum State, and the plaintiff’s interest in obtaining relief as well as the interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies; and the shared interest of the several States in furthering fundamental substantive social policies.” Id.


It is only when a court finds that both Florida’s long-arm statute and the constitutional due process standards have been satisfied may it exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant.  If a Florida court cannot properly exercise jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant, then the lawsuit against that defendant must be dismissed.

Brent V. Trapana exclusively focuses his practice on an array of marital and family law matters, with a concentration on complex dissolution of marriage issues including alimony, child support, parental responsibility, timesharing, and equitable distribution for high-net-worth individuals. Mr. Trapana also routinely prepares intricate and unique prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for his clients.