United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JURISDICTIONAL
G. TORRES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on John Elardi's
(“Plaintiff”) motion for leave to take
jurisdictional discovery against I.S. Makinen Oy (“I.S.
Makinen”). [D.E. 22]. I.S. Makinen responded to
Plaintiff's motion on October 29, 2019 [D.E. 27] to which
Plaintiff replied on November 5, 2019. [D.E. 29]. Therefore,
Plaintiff's motion is now ripe for disposition. After
careful consideration of the motion, response, reply,
relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed above,
Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.
filed this action on May 31, 2019 [D.E. 1] because of an
incident that occurred in June 2018. Plaintiff was a
passenger on a cruise ship and, while allegedly exercising
due care, sat on a sofa that collapsed. As a result,
Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint for strict liability
and negligence seeking relief for severe bodily injury, an
aggravation of pre-existing conditions, physical and mental
pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, a loss of
capacity for the enjoyment of life, and medical costs.
September 30, 2019, I.S. Makinen - operating as a Finnish
corporation - filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. [D.E. 18]. In
support of its motion, I.S. Makinen filed a declaration [D.E.
19] that the company has no offices or employees in Florida
and that the companies in this case are engaged in completely
different businesses. Plaintiff argues, however, that I.S.
Makinen's website directly contradicts that declaration
and that it makes no distinction between the two companies.
Plaintiff also claims that the website refers to the
companies collectively as “Makinen” and that it
describes an Executive Chairman that resides in Broward
County. Therefore, Plaintiff requests that it be
granted leave to take jurisdictional discovery to determine
whether personal jurisdiction exists.
Makinen argues, on the other hand, that the companies are not
the same, that this case should be dismissed for lack of
personal jurisdiction, and that Plaintiff is not entitled to
any jurisdictional discovery in the interim. I.S. Makinen
contends that the only jurisdictional allegation in
Plaintiff's complaint is that the companies are sister
corporations with an alter ego relationship. But, I.S.
Makinen claims that Plaintiff's allegation is without
jurisdictional significance because it is merely a conclusory
statement. See Res. Healthcare of Am., Inc. v.
McKinney, 940 So.2d 1139, 1143 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2006)
(“Ownership of a resident subsidiary corporation by an
out-of-state parent corporation, without more, has been
repeatedly deemed insufficient to meet the requirements of
section 48.193.”). I.S. Makinen also suggests that
Plaintiff's motion rises to the level of a fishing
expedition because, without any jurisdictional facts, there
is no evidence that the companies are operating in an alter
ego relationship. As such, I.S. Makinen requests that
Plaintiff's motion be denied, and that the Court proceed
with the disposition of the motion for personal jurisdiction.
courts have the power to order, at their discretion, the
discovery of facts necessary to ascertain their competency to
entertain the merits.” Eaton v. Dorchester Dev.,
Inc., 692 F.2d 727, 729 (11th Cir. 1982) (citations
omitted). Plaintiffs have a “qualified right” to
jurisdictional discovery “if the jurisdictional
question is genuinely in dispute and the court cannot resolve
the issue in the early stages of the litigation.”
Id. at 729, n.7. This means that the question of
jurisdictional discovery is a balance of competing interests:
On one hand, the avowed purpose of the Federal Rules is to
minimize the importance of procedural technicalities and to
allow a court to decide cases on the merits. On the other, a
court should decide only those cases that are properly before
it, and the defendant has a legitimate and protectable
interest in avoiding the time, effort, and expense of
discovery when the court's jurisdiction to hear the
merits may be lacking.
Eaton, 692 F.2d at 730. We note, however, that it is
not accurate that a district court has complete discretion to
grant or deny a request for jurisdictional discovery when the
jurisdictional facts are in dispute. It is more appropriate
to say that discretion is limited “to the form that the
discovery will take, ” as opposed to whether there will
be jurisdictional discovery. Id. Thus, “[a]
plaintiff faced with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction is entitled to reasonable discovery, lest the
defendant defeat the jurisdiction of a federal court by
withholding information on its contacts with the
forum.” Diamond Chem. Co. v. Atofina Chems.,
Inc., 268 F.Supp.2d 1, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2003).
are two Eleventh Circuit cases to consider in the disposition
of Plaintiff's motion for jurisdictional discovery. The
first is Eaton, where the Eleventh Circuit held that
a district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was
premature because a plaintiff must be given an opportunity to
develop facts to support a determination on the issue of
jurisdiction. See Eaton, 692 F.2d at 731. In that
case, plaintiffs served interrogatories and production
requests on the defendants before the court ruled on the
motion to dismiss. See Id. at 730-31. Focusing on
the timing of discovery, the court concluded that
“[t]he rules entitle a plaintiff to elicit material
through discovery before a claim may be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction.” Id. at 731 (citing Blanco
v. Carigulf Lines, 632 F.2d 656, 658 (5th Cir. 1980)).
second case to consider is Posner v. Essex Ins.,
Co., 178 F.3d 1209, 1214 n.7 (11th Cir. 1999), where the
Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion for
jurisdictional discovery because the plaintiffs made untimely
efforts to elicit discovery before the complaint was
dismissed and failed to specify what they thought should be
discovered. The plaintiffs failed to make any jurisdictional
discovery efforts in the eight months between the time
plaintiffs filed the complaint and the time it was dismissed.
See Id. at 1214 n.7. Instead, plaintiffs only
referred to jurisdictional discovery on the first page of
their memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss filed
seven and one-half months after the filing of the complaint
and more than five months after the filing of the motion to
dismiss. Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the
district court did not err in denying the plaintiffs'
request to take jurisdictional discovery.
Plaintiff's motion is well taken because there is a
genuine dispute as to whether I.S. Makinen availed itself of
the Court's jurisdiction. While I.S. Makinen suggests
that the record is undisputed and that Plaintiff's
request rises to the level of a fishing expedition, that
argument is premature as Plaintiff has not even had the
chance to seek limited jurisdictional discovery.
Plaintiff's request is also unlike other cases where
parties either waited a substantial amount of time to seek
discovery or failed to file a formal motion to take
discovery. See Inman v. Am. Paramount Fin., 2010 WL
11561202, at *3 (S.D. Fla. July 7, 2010) (“The decision
to allow ...