B. Little & Company, Inc. v. Choi Wai Printing (Hong Kong) Limited
5/31/23, Judge Bokor
Topics: Forum; Personal Jurisdiction
Both the plaintiff and the defendant in the case are foreign corporations that don’t conduct any business in Florida or maintain any physical presence here. B. Little operates in New York.
Choi Wai Printing sued B. Little for breach of contract. The contract in question had an arbitration clause that specified that arbitration must take place in New York, and the contract contemplated no business in Florida.
B. Little moved to dismiss based on a lack of personal jurisdiction and also on forum non conveniens. The trial court denied the motion, and B. Little appealed.
B. Little really screwed up. Instead of moving to dismiss at the outset of the case, it sought affirmative relief. By “affirmative relief,” the court meant seeking some sort of relief for which the defendant could have maintained an action or proceeded to recovery. A party can also waive an objection to personal jurisdiction by showing submission to jurisdiction. Here, B. Little moved to enforce the arbitration clause without mentioning personal jurisdiction, an example of seeking affirmative relief. It also filed an answer and affirmative defenses that did not mention jurisdiction, an example of submission. The defense of lack of personal jurisdiction was finally raised for the first time in an amended answer. There was no error in denying a motion at that stage to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Luckily for B. Little, it fared better with its motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. The court noted that it had to apply the factors set out in Kinney Sys., Inc. v. Cont’l Ins. Co., 674 So. 2d 86 (Fla. 1996). Without walking through each factor, the court simply stated that the overwhelming weight of the Kinney factors leaned in favor of sending the case to New York, so the court reversed the denial of the motion to dismiss on that basis.