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Panama Corporation That Conducted Shore Excursions for Carnival Was Not Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in Florida – Carmouche v. Tamborlee Management, Inc.

cruise ship in port

In order for a court to properly hear a case, the court must have jurisdiction over the matter. Jurisdictional issues can include both subject matter jurisdiction (the court’s competence to hear a particular category of case) and personal jurisdiction (a court’s power over a particular person or business). If a court lacks jurisdiction, it must dismiss the case, and the aggrieved party must refile the suit in the proper court. Alternatively, the claimant may appeal the matter to a higher court for review.

In the recent case of Carmouche v. Tamborlee Management, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit was asked to decide whether the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida had general personal jurisdiction over a Panama corporation that provided shore excursions for tourists in Belize.

Facts of the Case

In 2012, the plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship. She was injured while on an excursion in Belize. She sued both the operator of the ship and the operator of the shore excursion, alleging negligence. The shore excursion operator moved for dismissal of the passenger’s complaint, insisting that the federal district court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. The court allowed the passenger to take jurisdictional discovery, after which the shore excursion operator renewed its motion. The district court granted the motion, and the passenger appealed.

The Court of Appeals’ Decision

On review by the Eleventh Circuit, the court affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the passenger’s complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over the shore excursion operator. The court began by reviewing the general rules of diversity jurisdiction to the effect that a federal district must respect the long-arm statute of the state in which it sits and must comply with the Due Process Clause found in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The court went on to state that personal jurisdiction under the Florida long-arm statute can be exercised either specifically (suits arising out of or relating to the defendant’s contacts with Florida) or generally (in claims against a defendant that conducts substantial – and not merely isolated – activity in Florida).

Since the passenger conceded that the events at issue did not confer specific personal jurisdiction over the shore excursion operator, the question for determination was whether the district court had general jurisdiction. For purposes of the appeal, the court accepted as true the passenger’s allegations that the shore excursion operator had a bank account and two addresses in Florida (one was a post-office box), purchased insurance in Florida, filed a financing statement with the Florida Secretary of State, joined a trade organization in Florida, and consented to jurisdiction in the Southern District of Florida for lawsuits arising out of its agreements with the cruise ship operator. Finding that these connections were not enough to make the shore excursion operator a foreign corporation that was “at home” in Florida, the court found that the trial court’s dismissal of the suit against it was proper.

To Speak to a South Florida Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been hurt because of the negligence of a cruise ship operator or other individual or business, the law firm of Cohn & Smith is here to help. To speak to an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer, call (954) 431-8100 and ask for a free initial consultation about your case. We help injured people in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs, and North Dade County, and we welcome your call.

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