final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for
Miami-Dade County No. 15-27321, William Thomas, Judge.
& Ortega, P.A., and Omar Ortega, Rey Dorta and Rosdaisy
Rodriguez; Williams & Connolly LLP, and Peter J. Kahn,
Jonathan M. Landy and Matthew H. Jasilli (Washington, D.C.),
& Rinaldi, The Law Firm, and David W. Brill, Joseph J.
Rinaldi and Michelle Y. Medina-Fonseca (Weston); The McKee
Law Group, LLC, and Robert J. McKee (Davie); Joel S. Perwin,
P.A., and Joel S. Perwin, for appellee.
EMAS, LOGUE and SCALES, JJ.
Banco de los Trabajadores ("Bantrab"), the
defendant below, was sued by Appellee Ricardo Rene Cortez
Moreno ("Cortez"). In this non-final appeal,
Bantrab seeks review of the trial court's order denying
its motion to dismiss two counts of Cortez's complaint
for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the reasons that
follow, we reverse the trial court's order denying
Bantrab's motion to dismiss.
November of 2015, Cortez filed a complaint against Bantrab, a
Guatemalan bank, and against seven individual directors of
Bantrab (the "Directors"). Cortez later filed an
amended (and second amended) complaint that alleged the
following twenty claims:
Counts I-VII: Assault and Battery (against the Directors);
Count VIII: Assault and Battery
Counts IX-XV: Florida RICO (against the Directors);
Count XVI: Florida RICO (against
Count XVII: Breach of Contract (against Bantrab);
Counts XVIII-XX: Tortious Interference with Contract (against
three of the Directors)
counts relevant to this appeal are in bold.)
appeal addresses only the portion of the trial court's
March 14, 2017 order that found personal jurisdiction as to
Bantrab,  and only as to Counts VIII (assault and
battery) and XVI (Florida RICO violations).
second amended complaint contains the following allegations:
is a Guatemalan corporation, with its principal place of
business in Guatemala. Cortez was a citizen of Guatemala but
has been a resident of Miami-Dade County since 2008, and is
now a United States citizen.
2008, Bantrab entered into a written professional services
agreement with Cortez, under which Cortez would assist in
promoting and increasing Bantrab's business and business
presence in Florida and the United States. Both parties
further agreed to submit any type of dispute relating to the
contract to the jurisdiction of the courts of Miami-Dade
complaint alleges that Bantrab launched a "Bancarization
project" that sought the business of Guatemalan
residents who worked and lived in Florida and who sent money
to their families in Guatemala. To help create and operate
this business, Bantrab entered into a contract with
Cortez's company, Union Expresso. To promote the
Bancarization project, Bantrab sent officers and staff to
Florida, set up small banking facilities
("mini-consulates") in Florida, advertised in
Florida, contracted with money transfer companies based in
Florida, and worked with several associate banks in Florida.
Cortez acknowledged in his complaint that Bantrab's
formal banking activities take place in Guatemala.
point, the President of the Republic of Guatemala became
aware that Bantrab was allegedly involved in money
laundering. He contacted Cortez and asked Cortez to
investigate Bantrab's suspected money-laundering
activities in Florida and elsewhere in the United States.
From this point onward, as he acted upon the President's
request, Cortez allegedly became a target of Bantrab and the
Directors. Cortez alleges he discovered evidence that Bantrab
and the Directors were participating in a large-scale
conspiracy. Relevant to the jurisdictional issue presented,
Cortez alleges he discovered that Bantrab and the Directors
were aiding and abetting drug traffickers by laundering the
proceeds of narcotics trafficking and transferring these
proceeds to Florida through Bantrab. Further, Cortez alleges
that the Directors were traveling to Florida to meet with
members and representatives of drug cartels in furtherance of
this unlawful activity.
the Directors learned of Cortez's investigation, the
Directors threatened Cortez that if he did not stop his
investigation, leave Florida and come to Guatemala, they
would ruin his substantial business in Guatemala. The
Directors went to Florida to meet with Cortez in a further
attempt to convince Cortez to halt his investigation and to
bury his findings. When Cortez refused, Bantrab canceled its
contract with Cortez's company, Union Expresso.
point, Cortez decided to travel to Guatemala in an attempt to
reach some acceptable resolution with Bantrab. On August 20,
2009, Cortez met with the Directors but no real progress was
made at that meeting. Two days later, while still in
Guatemala and on his way to the airport to return to Florida,
the vehicle Cortez was riding in was fired upon forty-two
times, and Cortez was struck by two of the bullets. One
bullet traveled through Cortez's right arm and into his
chest and torso. The second bullet entered his lower back.
Cortez alleges that the Directors, as agents or employees of
Bantrab, hired a hitman to carry out this attack on Cortez
because of Cortez's investigation into Bantrab's (and
the Directors') conspiracy and money-laundering
activities allegedly occurring in Florida. This attempted
murder formed the basis for Cortez's assault and battery
addition to pleading these case-specific facts, Cortez's
second amended complaint also tracked the statutory language
of the relevant portions of Florida's long-arm
jurisdiction statute (section 48.193 of the Florida Statutes
(2015)). Cortez alleged that Bantrab was subject to the
jurisdiction of the courts of Florida for causes of action
arising from Bantrab's alleged: (i) operating,
conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business or
business venture in this state or having an office or agency
in this state; (ii) committing a tortious act within this
state; or (iii) engaging in substantial and not isolated
activity within this state.
the second amended complaint was filed, Bantrab filed a
motion to dismiss, contending that, even accepting all of the
complaint's allegations as true, those allegations, as a
matter of law, fail to establish personal jurisdiction over
Bantrab for the assault and battery claim and the Florida
RICO claim. Bantrab opposed all jurisdictional discovery and
the trial court permitted no discovery on this issue. The
trial court held a non-evidentiary hearing on Bantrab's
motion and, on March 14, 2017, entered the order on appeal
that denied Bantrab's motion to dismiss, concluding that
the allegations of Cortez's second amended complaint
established both general and specific personal jurisdiction
over Bantrab. The trial court's order, though, did
dismiss, without prejudice, Cortez's Florida RICO claim
against Bantrab (Count ...