FAQ: Do Florida Courts Have Jurisdiction Over A Non-Resident Who Is Alleged to Be Involved In A Conspiracy Against A Florida Resident? South and Central Florida Commercial Litigation Attorney

To answer the above question, the reader should first review Florida Statute 48.193, which is titled “Acts subjecting persons to jurisdiction of the Courts of this state.”  The elements required for pleading a civil conspiracy in Florida are (1) a conspiracy between two or more parties, (2) to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means, (3) the doing of some overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, and (4) damage to the plaintiff as a result of the acts, performed in furtherance of the conspiracy. Under Florida law, civil conspiracy is a derivative of the underlying claims which form the basis of the conspiracy. The gist of a civil conspiracy is not the conspiracy itself but the civil wrong which is done through the conspiracy which results in injury to the Plaintiff. There is no independent action for civil conspiracy. Thus, generally an actionable conspiracy requires an actionable underlying tort or wrong. An act which does not constitute a basis for a cause of action against one person cannot be made the basis for a civil action for conspiracy. However, there is an exception to the rule where the plaintiff can show some peculiar power of coercion posses by the conspirators by virtue of their combination, which power an individual would not possess.

For purposes of this discussion, we will assume that the elements set forth above to allege a civil conspiracy exist.  A series of Florida cases have found personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants engaged in conspiracies that include tortious or statutorily-prohibited actions as against Florida residents.  For example, telephonic, electronic or written communications into Florida, by a non-resident, may form the basis for personal jurisdiction if the alleged cause of action arises from the communications.  In addressing allegations that a non-resident defendant committed a tort in Florida though acts and communications directed into the state from outside of Florida, the appropriate inquiry is whether the tort as alleged occurred in Florida and not whether the alleged tort actually occurred.

As can be seen from the above discussion, it is important to examine all of the facts underlying the cause of action alleged as to each defendant.  When dealing with a non-resident defendant, it is especially important to allege, in the complaint, all of the specific acts, of the non-resident defendant, that were committed in furtherance of the conspiracy so that the court may properly determine the issue of jurisdiction.

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