Jurisdiction: It’s Not About Who You Sue, But Where
When you are injured in an accident, you or your injury attorney certainly do, and should, give thought as to who should be held liable—that is, who would be the right Defendant to sue. But do you give any thought to where to sue the Defendant? That often is a big question in personal liability or injury cases.
Sometimes It’s Obvious
It is easy to think that because you were injured here in Florida, that whoever injured you should be able to be sued here in Florida. After all, you are the victim; why should you have to travel to a different state just to sue someone for your injuries?
That, generally, is correct—in most cases, a court can hear your injury case right here in Florida. But sometimes, that’s not the case. Sometimes, a Defendant will respond to your Florida lawsuit by saying that they cannot legally be sued in Florida.
That’s because to sue a Defendant in Florida, the Florida court must have jurisdiction over the Defendant. Jurisdiction means that a court has the legal ability to adjudicate or determine both parties’ rights, and to order the Defendant to do something (specifically, to pay a judgment to you, in the event that you win your case).
For a court to have that jurisdiction over a particular Defendant, the Defendant must have what are called minimum contracts with the state of Florida.
In most cases, this is an easy inquiry. For example, if you fall in a store, and the store is in Florida, the Defendant can be sued in the state of Florida. A driver on Florida’s roads can be sued in Florida courts. These are all minimum contacts with the State of Florida.
But sometimes, it’s not so easy. Imagine that, for example, you buy a product with a lithium battery in it in Florida, and the battery explodes. You want to sue the battery manufacturer for the defective battery. The manufacturer may say that it is located in another state—or even another country—and that it had no idea its product would end up in Florida and had no intention of ever doing business in Florida.
What is Reasonable?
The core question to see if a court has jurisdiction is whether a Defendant could reasonably anticipate that it could be sued in Florida—even if it didn’t actually intend to do business in Florida. One thing courts will look at are intended end users of products.
If a company only sells products in Ohio, to another company that only does business in Ohio, it may not have any reason to believe that the product would end up in Florida and injure someone. On the other hand, a company that sells its products or services nationwide, can probably expect to be sued anywhere.
*We know that problems that come up in a personal injury case, and we’re prepared to deal with all of them. Call the Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Rosen Injury Law today.