Personal Jurisdiction Does Not Extend to a Non-resident Bank

Banco De Los Trabajadores V. Ricardo Rene Cortez Moreno, 2018 WL 522186 (Fla. 3d DCA Jan. 24, 2018)

In this case, Banco De Los Trabajadores (Bantrab) was a Guatemalan company that began doing business with Cortez, a Guatemalan citizen residing in Miami, Florida. Cortez’s scope of employment was to assist in promoting and increasing Bantrab’s business in the United States. While Bantrab established small banking facilities all over Florida, the formal banking activities occurred in Guatemala.

During Cortez’s employment, it was discovered that Bantrab was allegedly laundering large amounts of money for narcotics trafficking. It was also alleged that Directors of Bantrab had been traveling to Florida to meet with various members of drug cartels. When asked by Bantrab to stop investigating matters into the alleged large-scale criminal conspiracy, Cortez refused and his contract was terminated. To salvage the business relationship, Cortez flew to Guatemala to meet with the Directors of Bantrab. While heading to the airport to return to Florida, Cortez was shot and struck by two bullets. Cortez claimed that Bantrab Directors ordered the assassination attempt. This attempted murder led Cortez to file a suit for assault and battery, Florida RICO, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract against Bantrab. Bantrab filed a motion to dismiss two counts (assault and battery and Florida RICO) for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion and Bantrab appealed.

To sustain personal jurisdiction under Florida’s long arm statute §48.193, the court must determine if the facts can bring the action within the realm of the statute and if the party has sufficient “minimum contacts.” There are two different types of personal jurisdiction under the long-arm statute; general and specific. When a nonresident defendant has engaged in substantial and non-isolated activities within the state, a Florida court has “general” jurisdiction over the defendant. Specific jurisdiction in Florida, stems from a specific act enumerated in the Florida statue and the claim must arise from such actions.

The Third District ruled that the trial court applied the incorrect standard to determine if it could exercise general jurisdiction over Bantrab. The standard applied by the trial court was “continuous and systematic general business contact.” This standard was significantly changed by a U.S. Supreme Court case Goodyear v. Brown. Therefore, the general jurisdiction ruling was reversed and remanded back to the trial court to apply the appropriate standard under Goodyear. Goodyear, provides for general jurisdiction when the corporation’s “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic,’ it would be considered home in the forum state. The Third District also found that the allegations for assault and battery were insufficient to support specific jurisdiction. The act would have had to occur within the state. Lastly, due to the RICO portion of the claim being dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a cause of action, the Third District determined that it was premature for the trial court to address specific jurisdiction until Cortez properly stated a cause of action.

Due process is a constitutional right. When lawsuits arise, personal jurisdiction can determine where a party can be sued. It is important to protect those rights and insure that you have the right counsel to guide you through the legal process. If you or someone you know has a case involving interference with a contract, breach of contract or issues involving personal jurisdiction, please contact the lawyers at Kahn & Resnik, P.L. Our lawyers proudly serve all of Florida and will fully represent your legal needs. Call us now at 954-321-0176 to set up a consultation.