United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
CHARLENE EDWARDS HONEYWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon
Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant Universal Physician Services'
(“UPS”) “Motion to Determine Applicability
of Florida Law to Counter-Defendants' Counterclaim”
(Doc. 182) (the “Motion”) and
Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs Eric DeLong
(“DeLong”) and Clinical Services, LLC's
(“CSI”) response in opposition (Doc. 191). In the
Motion, UPS asserts that Florida law should apply to DeLong
and CSI's counterclaims because Florida is the place with
the “most significant relationship” to the
counterclaims. DeLong and CSI disagree, contending that South
Carolina law has the “most significant
relationship” to the counterclaims. Finding that the
parties' submissions lacked sufficient analysis, the
Court ordered supplemental briefing. Doc. 311. Specifically,
the Court ordered the parties to file memoranda addressing
the elements required to prove each counterclaim under both
Florida and South Carolina law, addressing what, if any,
conflicts of law exist as to each claim, and addressing why
Florida or South Carolina law should apply to each claim in
light of the allegations contained within each claim.
Id. UPS filed a supplemental memorandum (Doc. 313)
in accordance with the Court's
instructions. Having reviewed the parties'
submissions, including supplemental submissions, and being
fully advised in the premises, the Court will now grant
and CSI maintain the following counterclaims against UPS:
Count I - Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices; Count II -
Tortious Interference with Contractual and Business
Relations; Count III - Tortious Interference with Prospective
Contractual and Business Relations; Count IV - Conspiracy to
Interfere with Contractual and Business Relations; and Count
V -Conspiracy to Interfere with Prospective Contractual and
Business Relations. Doc. 85.
and CSI allege the following regarding all five counts. CSI
is a South Carolina limited liability company that is
incorporated in South Carolina. Id. at ¶ 137.
DeLong is a citizen and resident of South Carolina.
Id. at ¶ 139. UPS is an entity incorporated in
Florida with its members and agents residing in Ohio.
Id. at ¶ 140. Mary Ludvik
(“Ludvik”), who is a citizen and resident of
Ohio, is the sole managing member and registered agent of
UPS. Id. at ¶¶ 141-143. Joseph Del Zotto
is Ludvik's spouse, and Anthony Del Zotto is the son of
Ludvik and Joseph Del Zotto. Id. at ¶ 151.
Defendant Amanda Del Zotto (“Del Zotto”) is the
daughter of Ludvik and Joseph Del Zotto. Id. at
Zotto worked for UPS beginning about January 1, 2012 and
ending February 2015. Id. at ¶¶ 163-164.
In March 2015, Ludvik and Joseph Del Zotto made
unsubstantiated allegations about DeLong to the City of
Columbia, South Carolina Police Department. Id. at
¶ 165. The same month, Anthony Del Zotto called the
Marietta Police Department and made false allegations that
DeLong was harassing Joseph Del Zotto. Id. at ¶
166. The Marietta Police Department contacted DeLong in
Columbia, South Carolina and threatened criminal charges
against him as a result of the false allegations.
Id. at ¶ 167.
April 2015, UPS filed this case against Del Zotto.
Id. at ¶ 168. UPS obtained a temporary
injunction against Del Zotto. Id. at ¶ 171.
After obtaining this injunction, UPS, Ludvik, and Joseph Del
Zotto contacted CSI's current and prospective clients,
located in South Carolina, and misrepresented to them that
DeLong and CSI were subject to the injunction. Id.
at ¶ 172.
and CSI allege that Count I, Unfair and Deceptive Trade
Practices, is based on actions of UPS which “constitute
unfair and/or deceptive methods as defined by the South
Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), codified at S.C.
Code Ann. 39-5-10 through 39-5-160.” Id. at
¶ 174. DeLong and CSI allege the following with respect
to Count II, Tortious Interference with Contractual and
Business Relations: CSI had contractual relationships with
several South Carolina businesses and entities, UPS was aware
of such relationships, and UPS, individually and by and
through their counsel, sought to induce a breach of such
contracts by making misrepresentations and threats to
CSI's clients. Id. at ¶¶ 179-182. With
respect to Count III, Tortious Interference with Prospective
Contractual and Business Relations, DeLong and CSI allege UPS
intentionally interfered with CSI's potential contractual
relations. Id. at ¶ 185. In Count IV,
Conspiracy to Interfere with Contractual and Business
Relations, and Count V, Conspiracy to Interfere with
Prospective Contractual and Business Relations, DeLong and
CSI allege UPS contacted CSI's clients and prospective
clients by phone to persuade them to stop doing business with
CSI, sent letters containing inaccurate information, and
engaged in other harassing behavior. Id. at
¶¶ 191, 199.
Whether a True Conflict Exists
beginning a conflict of law analysis, a court should
determine whether a conflict of laws truly exists.
Fioretti v. Mass. Gen. Life Ins. Co., 53 F.3d 1228,
1234-35 (11th Cir. 1995).
district court engaged in a choice of law analysis must
determine which sovereigns have an interest in the
application of their laws. Pycsa Panama, S.A. v. Tensar
Earth Technologies, Inc., 625 F.Supp.2d 1198, 1218 (S.D.
Fla. 2008) aff'd, 329 Fed.Appx. 257 (11th Cir.
2009) (citing Judge v. Am. Motors Corp., 908 F.2d
1565, 1568 (11th Cir. 1990)). A comprehensive choice of law
analysis is only required if the matter involves a true
conflict. Id. (citing Tune v. Philip Morris,
Inc., 766 So.2d 350, 352 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000)).
conflict exists where “two or more states have a
legitimate interest in a particular set of facts in
litigation and the laws of those states differ or would
produce a different result.” Id. (citing
Walker v. Paradise Hotel, Ltd., No. 01-3564, 2003 WL
21361662, *2-3 (S.D. Fla. April 25, 2003)); see also
Fioretti, 53 F.3d at 1234 (noting the principle that
“when the laws of the competing states are
substantially similar, the court should avoid the conflicts
question and simply decide the issue under the law of each of
the interested states”).
conflict is presented “where the laws of the interested
jurisdictions are: (1) the same; (2) different but would
produce the same outcome under the facts of the case; or (3)
when the policies of one jurisdiction would be furthered by
the application of its laws while the policies of the other
jurisdiction would not be advanced by the application of its
laws.” Pycsa, 625 F.Supp.2d at 1218-19 (citing
Tune, 766 So.2d at 352). Where a false conflict
exists, the Court applies the law of the forum state. See
Fioretti, 53 F.3d at 1234, n.21 (stating that a court
may apply the law of the forum state when no conflict
exists); Pycsa Panama, 625 F.Supp.2d at 1219 (citing
Cavic v. Grand Bahama Dev. Co., 701 F.2d 879, 882
(11th Cir. 1983) (“[U]nder applicable conflict-of-laws
principles the law of the forum would govern the substantive
issues due to the absence of facts justifying the application
of the law of some other jurisdiction.”)).
supplemental memorandum outlines in detail the conflicts of
law that exist between Florida law and South Carolina law
with respect to four of five of DeLong and CSI's
counterclaims. Doc. 313 at pp. 2-4. In particular, South
Carolina law at times requires a plaintiff to prove
additional elements beyond what Florida law provides. As an
example, a claim for unfair trade practices under South
Carolina statue requires the plaintiff to prove that the
unlawful act had an adverse impact on the public, while
Florida law makes no such requirement. Compare,
e.g., Wright v. Craft, 640 S.E.2d 486, 498
(S.C. Ct. App. 2006) (“To recover in an action under
the [SC]UTPA, the plaintiff must show: (1) the defendant
engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in the conduct of trade
or commerce; (2) the unfair or deceptive act affected public
interest; and (3) the plaintiff suffered monetary or property
loss as a result of the defendant's unfair or deceptive