Florida Ninth Judicial Circuit Business Court’s Minimum Amount-in-Controversy Jurisdiction

After a year’s hiatus, Orlando’s Business Court is back in operation.  The Business Court’s homepage can be found here.

The “Amended Administrative Order Governing Business Court” reinstating the Business Court can be found here. It is interesting to compare the Business Court’s jurisdiction under this August 2019 Order, with the Ninth Circuit’s original December 2003 Order establishing Florida’s first business court.

In the original Order, there was blanket jurisdiction over eleven general case type categories, with some additionally listed sub-categories. There was no stated minimum amount-in-controversy requirement.

By contrast, the 2019 Order lists sixteen case types falling within the Business Court’s jurisdiction, ten of which require a $500,000 minimum amount-in-controversy. Moreover, emphasizing the importance placed on this gatekeeping requirement, plaintiffs cannot generally allege damages in a complaint. Rather, “the parties must file a complaint which sets forth the actual amount in controversy as opposed to simply pleading ‘in excess of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00).’”

These ten case types include:

  1. Claims arising from U.C.C. related transactions;
  2. Claims arising from the purchases and sales of businesses or the assets of a business, including contract disputes and business torts;
  3. Claims involving the sale of goods or services by or to business enterprises;
  4. Claims involving non-consumer bank or brokerage accounts, including loan, deposit, cash management, and investment accounts;
  5. Claims arising from the purchase or sale of commercial real or personal property or security interests therein;
  6. Claims related to surety bonds;
  7. Franchisee/franchisor relationships and liabilities;
  8. Malpractice claims of non-medical professionals in connection with rendering services to a business enterprise;
  9. Insurance coverage disputes, bad faith suits, and third party indemnity actions against insurers arising under policies issued to businesses, such as claims arising under a commercial general liability policy or commercial property policy; and
  10. Other complex disputes of a commercial nature, excluding those listed in Section II, below. Cases eligible under this category will normally have four or more parties, multiple claims and defenses, third party, cross or counterclaims, complex factual or legal issues, or other unusual features warranting assignment to Business Court. The Court may accept commercial foreclosure and landlord-tenant cases if the case meets amount in controversy requirements and if the case has a complex nature that differentiates it from ordinary foreclosure and landlord-tenant disputes.

Thus, as in a number of other business courts, the minimum amount-in-controversy serves a docket control function, at least for certain types of commercial cases.

That being said, the other six listed case types falling within the Business Court’s jurisdiction have no minimum amount-in-controversy requirement. These include:

  1. Actions relating to the internal affairs or governance, dissolution or liquidation rights obligations between or among owners (shareholders, partners, members), or liability or indemnity of managers (officers, directors, managers, trustees, or members or partners functioning as managers) of corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies or partnerships, professional associations, business trusts, joint ventures or other business enterprises;
  2. Actions relating to trade secrets and non-compete agreements;
  3. Intellectual property claims;
  4. Actions relating to securities or relating to or arising under the state securities laws or antitrust statutes;
  5. Shareholder derivative actions and class actions involving claims that are subject to Business Court, pursuant to this Order; and
  6. Actions relating to corporate trust affairs or director and officer liability.

There is also an express list of case types not subject to Business Court jurisdiction. The 2003 and 2019 excluded case types remain the same.

Finally, one cannot mention Orlando’s Business Court without recognizing the extraordinary efforts of its first business court judge, the Honorable Renee A. Roche.

Posted by Lee Applebaum