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Non-Resident Defendants Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in Florida

In KITROSER v. HURT,  37 Fla. L. Weekly S237a (Fla. Mar. 22, 2012), the Fourth District Court of Appeals (50 So. 3d 62 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010)) issued an application for review of its decision certifying an issue of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court, to wit,

WHERE AN INDIVIDUAL, NON-RESIDENT DEFENDANT COMMITS NEGLIGENT ACTS IN FLORIDA ON BEHALF OF HIS CORPORATE EMPLOYER, DOES THE CORPORATE SHIELD DOCTRINE OPERATE AS A BAR TO PERSONAL JURISDICTION IN FLORIDA OVER THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANT?

The Florida Supreme Court  held that "[w]here an individual, nonresident defendant commits negligent acts in Florida, whether on behalf of a corporate employer or not, the corporate shield doctrine does not operate as a bar to personal jurisdiction in Florida over the individual defendant." The Supreme Court noted that the plaintiff alleged without controversion that while the defendant's employees were personally in Florida, each engaged in some form of negligent conduct, either by training or supervision which contributed to a death. The defendant's employees did not contest that they were in Florida, nor did they contest that they engaged in some form of conduct, training, or supervision of another employee in Florida. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court that "[t]he corporate shield doctrine, therefore, is inapplicable and does not exclude the [defendant's] employees from the exercise of personal jurisdiction by Florida courts."

This decision is important, as there are various decisions in Florida which suggest "that nonresident corporate defendants will not be subject to Florida's long-arm statute despite acting tortiously in Florida because their acts were performed on behalf of corporate employers." These decisions include Radcliffe v. Gyves, 902 So. 2d 968 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005), and Snibbe v. Napoleonic Society of America, 682 So. 2d 568 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996). The Florida Supreme Court specifically disapproved these decision to the extent they may so suggest.

If you are interested in receiving a complete copy of this decision, please feel free to contact me at miamipandi@comcast.net or mov@chaloslaw.com.

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