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Useful Florida and Federal Case Decisions Affecting Business & Personal Matters

SCOTUS 7-2 Rules Floating Home is NOT a vessel for purposes of admiralty law.

Admiralty -- Maritime lien -- Floating home -- Jurisdiction -- Municipality brought federal admiralty lawsuit in rem against floating home, seeking a lien for dockage fees and damages for trespass, and owner of floating home moved for lack of admiralty jurisdiction -- Case is not moot, despite destruction of home by city, where prior to court-ordered sale of home and purchase by city, court ordered city to post bond to ensure owner could obtain monetary relief if he ultimately prevailed -- Floating home, which is not self-propelled, is not a “vessel” under Rules of Construction Act, which defines a “vessel” as including “every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as means of transportation on water” -- Floating home does not fall within scope of statutory phrase, “capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water” where a reasonable observer, looking to home's physical characteristics and activities, would not consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carrying people or things on water.

The dissents thought the case should be remanded for additional fact finding.


5th District, July 2011 CMI v. Ulloa, et al. -- is a case concerning defendants attempting to subpoena documents from out of state by serving the Florida registered agent of the foreign corporation. The Uniform Law under which this was done only applies to criminal cases.

Interesting Parts of the Opinion:

Kentucky and Florida, as well as the other forty-eight states, enacted the Uniform Law to establish uniformity in the procedure by which out-of-state witnesses may be compelled to participate in criminal proceedings. Yeary v. State, 711 S.E.2d 694, 696 (Ga. 2011). The requesting court must certify that the witness is material and specify the number of days the witness will be required. § 942.03(1). This triggers a hearing in the recipient state to determine whether to compel the attendance of the witness in the other state. § 942.02(1). The prevailing view is that the Uniform Law applies to subpoenas duces tecum that require both testimony of a witness and the production of documents. See State v. Bastos, 985 So. 2d 37 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008).

If a subpoena duces tecum requires only the production of documents and is directed to a foreign corporation that is authorized and doing business in Florida, the Third District has held that the Uniform Law governing the attendance of out-of-state witnesses in criminal proceedings is inapplicable. See General Motors Corp. v. State, 357 So. 2d 1045, 1047 (Fla. 3d DCA 1978).

Designating an agent for service of process subjects a foreign corporation to the jurisdiction of the Florida court to adjudicate its rights and obligations in a legal dispute. See generally § 48.091, Fla. Stat. (2010). The registered agent has a limited role, and is not a corporate employee or custodian of corporate records. CMI is not involved in a legal dispute. Even if CMI is subject to the personal jurisdiction of Florida courts under the long-arm statute, 2 this does not mean that CMI is required to respond to a subpoena to appear and/or to produce documents in a Florida court in a criminal case in which it is not a party. Unlike personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation registered and doing business within the State of Florida, the subpoena power of a Florida court over a

See generally § 48.193, Fla. Stat. (2010). 6

person or legal entity which is not a party in a lawsuit does not extend beyond state lines. See § 914.001(1), Fla. Stat. (2010). The long-arm statute does not extend the subpoena power of a Florida court to command the in-state attendance of a nonresident, non-party person or entity, or compel that person or entity to produce documents. See Phillips Petroleum Co. v. OKC Ltd. P'ship, 634 So. 2d 1186 (La. 1994); see also Sygenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 908 So. 2d 121 (Miss. 2005). The only way to secure such out-of-state witnesses or documents in a criminal case is to follow the procedures of the Uniform Law.

Verabella Falls Condominium, Association, Inc. Appellant, vs. Carlos Sosa, Appellee, 3rd DCA, Jan. 2012 Opinion on Service of Corporate Agents for Foreign Corporations. Good discussion on serving foreign corporations with or without registered agents in Florida.

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