Saturday, March 28, 2009

Out of State Lawyers Subject to Florida's Personal Jurisdiction

On March 25, 2009, the Fourth District reversed the circuit court and held two New York lawyers are subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida. The lawyers performed almost all of the legal work in New York, however, filed corporate documents for the client with the Secretary of State. When the client alleged the two lawyers committed malpractice by filing the documents, the lawyers should have reasonably anticipated being "haled" into the Florida courts relating to the transaction. The case was Beta Drywall Acquisition, LLC v. Mintz & Fraade, P.C. (4D08-1688) and the court stated:

Under Becker, the tort of legal malpractice in the instant case accrued in Florida where Beta, a Florida corporation, alleges it suffered $750,000 in damages as a direct result of Mintz and Fraade’s negligence. Though Mintz and Fraade performed most of the necessary legal services from a New York office, they caused allegedly faulty Acquisition Articles to be filed in Florida which caused injury to Beta. Thus, Mintz and Fraade committed a tortious act in Florida within the meaning of section 48.193(1)(b), Florida Statutes, and their actions are within the ambit of the long-arm statute.

Mintz and Fraade also have sufficient minimum contacts with Florida to satisfy the due process requirement. This prong is satisfied “if the defendant purposefully directs activities at Florida and litigation arises out of those activities, or the defendant purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state.” Achievers Unlimited, Inc. v. Nutri Herb, Inc., 710 So. 2d 716, 719 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998). Mintz and Fraade performed the necessary legal work for the formation of two Florida LLCs created for the purpose of acquiring the assets of an existing Florida corporation. Beta claims Mintz and Fraade were negligent in their performance, and thus, that they are liable for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. Beta’s claims arise from the activity Mintz and Fraade directed into the state of Florida. A reasonable person having conducted the activities conducted by Mintz and Fraade in the present case would reasonably foresee being haled into court in Florida should an issue regarding the very formation of Beta arise.


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