Florida Long-Arm Jurisdiction, Case Law Update – Universal Music Venezuela v. Montaner

Posted on: January 9, 2013

In Universal Music Venezuela v. Montaner, No. 3D12-1580 (Dec. 26, 2012), the Third District Court of Appeals reversed an order denying a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The action arose out of a series of contracts, executed in Venezuela, which provided that they were going to be governed by Venezuelan law, and that any payments due to Montaner were to be made in Venezuela with Venezuelan currency, for the distribution of recordings made by Montaner in Venezuela.

Hector Montaner is a composer and recording artist who attempted to assert Florida long-arm jurisdiction over the Defendant, Universal Music Venezuela. Long-arm jurisdiction allows Florida courts to exercise jurisdiction over the Venezuelan entity based upon certain parameters set forth in Florida Statute section 48.193. 

Montaner attempted to assert jurisdiction over the Defendant through sections 48.193(1)(a), (1)(g), and (2), which provide for the exercise of long-arm jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant who (a) operates, conducts, engages in, or carries on a business or business venture in the state of Florida or has an office or agency in this state, (b) breaches a contract in this state by failing to perform the acts required by the contract to be performed in this state, or (c) engages in substantial and not isolated activity within the state (regardless of whether the claim arises from such activity).

Although it was admitted in the trial court proceeding that Defendant had no agents or employees and conducted no business itself in Florida, the trial judge agreed with Plaintiff’s contention that personal jurisdiction may nevertheless be asserted against Defendant because of the activities of an affiliated, but entirely separate corporation, namely, Universal Music Latino (UML).  Pursuant to a contract with UML, Defendant distributed its products in this state.  The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s assertion of jurisdiction as there was no evidence that Defendant controlled or directed the operations of UML. In sum, the appellate court found that there was no showing of any, let alone the minimum contacts, between the Defendant and Florida, nor was there any showing sufficient to satisfy due process requirements that Defendant had purposely availed itself of the benefits and protections of Florida law.

Jurisdictional disputes of this kind often lead to lengthy and complicated legal battles, at times even involving extensive jurisdictional discovery.  The attorneys at Schecter Law are experienced in this field, and can assist you whether you are a non-resident of Florida seeking to resist personal jurisdiction, or whether you are seeking to impose personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant in Florida state courts.