Federal Litigation

GLOBAL DIGITAL SOLUTIONS, INC., PLAINTIFF, V. MERRIELLYN KETT MURPHY, DEFENDANT; OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S AMENDED MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S AMENDED COMPLAINT & DENYING ALTERNATIVE MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

Attorneys J. Chris Bristow and Robert D. Critton, Jr. of Critton, Luttier, and Coleman obtained a significant victory in federal court over personal jurisdiction of a nonresident Defendant. The case, Case 9:14-cv-80190-DTKH Global Digital Solutions, Inc. v. Murphy, resulted from a failed merger between West Palm Beach based Global Digital Solutions, Inc. (“GDSI”) and Illinois based company Airtronic. After the merger failed, GDSI later learned that Airtronic’s president, CEO, and sole stockholder Merriellyn Kett Murphy (“Kett”) interfered with the merger. GDSI filed suit against Kett and alleged causes of action for tortious interference with contract, fraudulent inducement, fraudulent concealment, and civil conspiracy.

Defendant Kett challenged personal jurisdiction in Florida on the grounds that she was a resident of Chicago, Illinois and the majority of her contact with Florida was related to the Airtonic/GDSI merger. Through limited jurisdictional discovery, attorneys Bristow and Critton were able to obtain sufficient evidence to show that while the GDSI/Airtronic merger was pending, Kett actively sought out other merger partners without informing GDSI. After finding another merger partner that provided her with a better opportunity, Kett refused to close the GDSI/Airtronic merger.

On October 9, 2014, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a detailed 22 page order, denying Defendant Kett’s Motion to Dismiss or Transfer for lack of personal jurisdiction. The order is significant because the defendant claimed her contact with Florida was limited to three trips to Florida that were related to the merger. The court found that defendant’s fraudulent activities that occurred outside of Florida but were directed towards Florida and harmed a Florida corporation could be a basis for personal jurisdiction in Florida. The out of state defendant’s fraudulent activity included multiple emails and phone calls to GDSI in Florida during the time when the defendant was seeking a better opportunity through another merger partner.

This is one of the more detailed orders related to personal jurisdiction involving email and telephone contact with the state of Florida. The order provides guidance for Florida business who may have been harmed by a nonresident individual’s fraudulent conduct and ensures that Florida based business may bring claims for harms caused by the fraudulent conduct of a nonresident.


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