Sunday, January 9, 2011

Service Of Process On Distributor Quashed

In Sunseeker International Limited v. Devers (4D10-2997), the Fourth District reversed the trial court's ruling  that refused to quash service of process.
The underlying dispute arose over a buyer’s dissatisfaction with a boat purchased from the manufacturer. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the manufacturer, Sunseeker International Limited, the authorized distributor, Sunseeker USA, Inc., and Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales, Inc., a Michigan broker/dealer. The manufacturer is a corporation organized under the laws of the United Kingdom with its principal office and factory in Poole,  Dorest, England.  All yachts are manufactured in the United Kingdom.
The plaintiff served a distributor with the complaint and told the trial court that the manufacturer was authorized to do business in Florida but did not have a registered agent in Florida.  Therefore, according to the plaintiff, service could be accomplished by serving the distributor.  The manufacturer responded that it had not been authorized to do business in Florida since 2004 and, therefore, service could not be accomplished on the distributor.  The Fourth District agreed with the manufacturer, quashed service of process and remanded the case.  The court stated:
Here, the buyer failed to allege that the distributor was a business agent of the manufacturer or an agent transacting business for it.
The buyer also failed to prove the distributor was the business agent of  the manufacturer.  The buyer provided the trial court with only a printout from the Secretary of  State’s website.  Significantly, that printout revealed that the manufacturer  had withdrawn its registration in 2004.  The buyer therefore failed to sustain its burden of proof.
The buyer having failed to establish compliance with Florida’s statutory requirements for  service of  process, the trial court erred  in denying the motion to quash service of process.  The case is reversed and remanded.
On remand, after proper service is accomplished, the trial court will be able to deal with personal jurisdiction issues.  One other point was made in a footnote.  The court stated:
The buyer argues that the manufacturer waived personal jurisdiction because it first filed a motion for extension of time in which it advised it would contest personal jurisdiction.  We disagree.  The motion for extension of  time did not waive personal jurisdiction because it did not go to the merits of the case.  Moo Young v. Air Canada, 445 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984).
 [emphasis supplied].


Post a Comment