Florida District Court of Appeals Case Discusses Procedure For Suit Against a Foreign Corporation

The Florida Second District Court of Appeals recently issued Teva Pharmaceutical Industries v. Ruiz (2D14-4462), which outlined the necessary legal process for filing suit against a foreign corporation.  In this suit, the injured parties alleged claims of negligence and strict liability against a company based in Israel.  The main injured party to the suit suffered serious and permanent injury after taking a drug made by the foreign corporation that was contaminated with endotoxins, microbial contaminants, or other bacteria.  The company argued that it did not have any connection with Florida, and it appealed after the trial court refused to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit.

If you are injured by an individual or corporation, not only must the at-fault party owe you a duty to avoid harm, but also there must be jurisdiction over the party.  Under Florida state law, there must either be sufficient jurisdictional facts to bring the action, or the nonresident must have sufficient minimum contacts with Florida.  For the second qualification, the at-fault party can either personally, or through an agent, submit herself or himself to the jurisdiction of the courts by operating, conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business or business venture in Florida, or having an office or agency in this state.  If an injury is caused to a person or property within Florida from an act or omission by the defendant while engaging in business in Florida, the at-fault party can be held liable.  A Florida statute states that this can occur if the defendant was engaged in solicitation or service activities within Florida or provided products or materials that were used or consumed within Florida in the ordinary course of commerce, trade, or use.

The Court of Appeals felt that the only way to determine whether or not Florida had specific jurisdiction over the foreign company was to have an evidentiary hearing.  The injured person’s complaint specified that the foreign corporation conducted business in Florida through its subsidiary as well as manufactured, distributed, sold, or supplied the drug that caused the injury.  The complaint also stated that the foreign corporation had 100% ownership and control over its USA subsidiary.   The Court felt that the complaint met the initial threshold required by Florida law to show that jurisdiction existed over the foreign pharmaceutical company.  The burden then shifts to the foreign corporation to contest the jurisdictional allegation contained within the complaint.

However, the company submitted the affidavit of its vice president of finance, which emphasized that the company has not done any business of any kind in Florida through any of its American subsidiaries.  The vice president pointed out that it is not incorporated in Florida and has no branch offices or manufacturing plants within Florida.  The foreign company’s U.S. subsidiary is a Delaware corporation with the principal place of business in Irvine, California. The company also bought the drug in question from a manufacturer in Israel.  The Court of Appeals felt that this was sufficient to refute the jurisdictional allegation in the complaint.  The court said that by law the burden then went back to the injured parties to refute the affidavit, but since there were several pieces of evidence that supported the plaintiffs’ position, an evidentiary hearing was the only way to resolve the conflicting statements and evidence.

When serious and permanent injuries happen, the Florida personal injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience you need to aggressively pursue your case.  Companies will often utilize every resource they have to avoid liability, and our attorneys know how to push back against defense strategies.  For a free, confidential consultation, call our office today at 772-600-8707.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appeals Court Reviews Notice Requirements for Insured to Receive Personal Injury Protection Benefits, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2015

Knowing How a Rejection of Uninsured/Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage in Florida Affects You and Your Family, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 6, 2015