Gibbons v. Brown

716 So.2d 868 (Fl. Dist. Ct. App. 1998)

Yeazell, pp. 192-193


Facts: Brown and her husband got into an accident with Gibbons.  Brown’s husband was driving, and Gibbons allegedly gave him bad directions, causing the accident.  Gibbons, a Texas resident, sued Mr. Brown in Florida.  Two years later, Mrs. Brown sues Gibbons in Florida, alleging that Gibbons is subject to jurisdiction in Florida because of the suit she filed there earlier on the same subject matter.


Issue: Does the Florida “Long-Arm” statute give the state jurisdiction over Gibbons?


Rule: Florida shall have jurisdiction over a defendant who is “engaged in substantial and not isolated activity” in Florida.  This is construed to be a higher standard than the federal constitutional one.


Analysis: The court assumes that the first lawsuit is over, and thus finds that Gibbons is not currently engaged in any activities in Florida.  The court says that brining a lawsuit in Florida shouldn’t hang over your head for the rest of your life.


Conclusion: The court dismisses Mrs. Brown’s lawsuit.


Notes and Problems


1.     The court doesn’t address the constitutional test, but rather just the Florida statutory test which has a higher threshold for jurisdiction.

a.      Ms. Gibbons’s activity doesn’t satisfy the Florida statute because she is not currently engaged in any activities in Florida.

a.      Assuming that purposeful availment doesn’t have a time limit, Florida would have jurisdiction if it had a statute like that of California.  You could employ the five factor test from World-Wide and say that though the contacts may be small, fair play is satisfied.  Hanson gives us the “purposeful availment” test mentioned above.

b.     Gibbons is distinguishable from this case based on the Florida statute involved.  If California had the same statute back then as it does now, there would be no problem of state law to overcome in order for California to get the maximum possible jurisdiction allowed by the Constitution.


a.      In order to make the statute the same as the due process clause, you would get rid of the words “tortious act”, because presumably you can get jurisdiction over a contract breaker as well.  You would get rid of “injury” and “within the state”, as well as “regularly” and “in the state”…well, basically, you would have to change the whole thing.

b.     If you interpret the words “person or property within the state” to include persons domiciled in the state of New York but who are out of the state, for example, to see a doctor, then there’s jurisdiction.  But it seems that the court interpreted the statute as meaning the person must have been physically in the state of New York when the injury occurred.


a.      The state test is always a threshold test that you do before you even look at the Constitution.

b.     It could be good for business for a state to restrict its jurisdiction.  Companies might like doing business there better if they know they are less likely to have to defend themselves in that forum.

c.     Even if the statute is written one way, it may be interpreted more broadly.

4.     The Florida long-arm statute would apply in a federal district court in Florida, but not in a federal court in Texas.


a.      Since notice is a necessary but not sufficient condition for personal jurisdiction, there’s no problem constitutionally, unless I misunderstand and Steve Y. is telling me that notice has been construed to be sufficient for personal jurisdiction.  In either case, federal courts might sometimes serve notice but subsequently find that there is no personal jurisdiction.

b.     The problem here is that there’s a lack of notice to the defendant that he could be subject to personal jurisdiction on a state claim, contrary to the clear language of the statute.  It is the right result as far as efficiency goes, I suppose.


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