SW Legal studies in Business

No Jurisdiction Based on Website and Sporadic Activity in a State

Florida appeals court held that a foreign corporation could not sue a New York university in Florida court for an alleged tort. None of the activities occurred in Florida, and the university’s activities in Florida, including a website and alumni association, were not sufficient contact to form personal jurisdiction.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

“Doing Business;” Personal Jurisdiction; Interference with Contractual Relationship

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Ocean World, a foreign corporation, operates Ocean World Adventure Park in the Dominican Republic (DR). It contracted with Briggs to buy 12 dolphins from Taiji, Japan for delivery in the DR. The DR denied a permit to import the dolphins. Ocean World sued various defendants for intentional interference with a contract or business relationship. Among the defendants was Columbia University of New York City. Suit was filed in Florida, contending that Columbia was “doing business” in Florida through its alumni association, interactive internet classrooms, and a website providing online courses for students to obtain degrees and professional certificates. Columbia also owns property in Florida. Ocean World contends that Columbia encouraged the DR to refuse to allow the dolphins to be imported, which was interference with a business relationship. Reiss and Columbia moved for dismissal for lack of jurisdiction in Florida courts. The trial court refused that motion. They appealed.


Reversed and remanded. Florida courts do not have jurisdiction over the defendants. None of the alleged tortious acts occurred in Florida, as would be required for personal jurisdiction. The facts that Columbia has alumni associations in Florida and offers internet lectures and owns property in the state do not amount to continuous and systematic general business contacts with Florida to warrant exercise of personal jurisdiction. The existence of a website that may be visible in every location does not make the owner of the website subject to jurisdiction in every location.


Trustees of Columbia University v. Ocean World, S.A., ---So.3d--- (2009 WL 1212229, Ct. App., Fla., 2009)

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