Holland & Knight Defends Panamanian Construction Company in Florida Contract Dispute
MIAMI – September 19, 2013 – Holland & Knight's appellate team successfully defended Panamanian highway contractor Pysca Panama S.A. in a contract dispute with a Florida-based engineer over $1 million in fees. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the case, explaining that Pysca, a foreign company with "occasional and insignificant" operations in Florida, could not be sued in Florida courts for jurisdictional reasons.
In establishing jurisdiction, the appellate court rejected the plaintiff's argument that Pysca conducted employment negotiations in Florida and therefore should be subject to the state's Long Arm Statute, which extends jurisdiction to foreign companies and individuals who meet certain requirements.
The result in Melgarejo v. Pycsa Panama S.A. is significant because it clarifies existing Florida law regarding how foreign companies conducting minimal negotiations in the state are treated under the Long Arm Statute.
"Many foreign companies come to Florida for business negotiations, however that doesn't mean that their mere footfall in Florida alone rises to a finding that the companies are conducting substantial business in the state," said Holland & Knight appellate partner Frances Guasch De La Guardia. "The 11th Circuit's ruling makes this important distinction and should serve as precedent for similar cases in the future."
Ms. Guasch De La Guardia represented Pysca in the appeal. Holland & Knight partner Jose Casal had previously defended Pysca in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.