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Florida Third DCA reverses trial court ruling denying defense motion to dismiss medical negligence case for lack of personal jurisdiction, remands for trial court to follow proper procedure in resolving conflicting claims re application of Florida’ long arm statute

On April 14, 2021, in Team Health Holdings Inc. v. Caceres, et al., No. 3D20-0942, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s ruling which had denied a medical negligence defendant’s motion to the dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction under Florida’s long arm statute. The plaintiffs had added the corporate defendant, an out-of-state corporation, in an amended complaint that alleged a theory of corporate successor liability. The defendant’s motion to dismiss was supported by an affidavit from the defendant’s Chief Operations Counsel, which contested personal jurisdiction based on his personal knowledge and review of the company’s books and records. The trial court held that the affidavit was insufficient because the books and records on which the affiant relied were not submitted. The Third DCA concluded that the trial court erred in not following the established procedure in Florida for determining whether a court may exercise personal jurisdiction as set forth in Venetian Salami Co. v. Parthenais, 554 So. 2d 499 (Fla.1989). The Third DCA pointed out that “[t]o be legally sufficient, the defendant’s affidavit must contain factual allegations which, if taken as true, show that the defendant’s conduct does not subject him to jurisdiction,” quoting from Hilltopper Holding Corp. v. Estate of Cutchin ex rel. Engle, 955 So. 2d 598, 601 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007).The Third DCA stated that the trial court erred by not simply accepting the facts alleged in the affidavit as true and requiring the plaintiff to submit their own affidavit. If the affidavits could not be harmonized, the trial court would then be required to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the jurisdictional issue. The Third DCA remanded the case to the trial court to follow the correct procedure.