No Personal Jurisdiction Over South American Entities Implicated in Bribery Scheme

The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2017 - Personal Jurisdiction/Forum Non Conveniens

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GolTV, Inc. v. Fox Sports Latin America Ltd., US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, September 19, 2017

Plaintiffs GolTV and Global Sports Partners sued the Paraguay-based Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol (“Conmebol”), a soccer confederation, the Uruguay-based Full Play S.A., a sports media and marketing business, and Alejandro Burzaco, an Argentine citizen, among others, for civil conspiracy. Plaintiffs allege that Burzaco facilitated the payments of bribes and kickbacks to Conmebol officials to secure broadcasting rights to Conmebol’s international soccer tournaments, and laundered money through Full Play. Conmebol and Full Play moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The Court explained that jurisdiction must be authorized under both the Florida Statute specifying the limits of the Court’s jurisdiction and the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution. As to the former, the Court observed that Florida’s long arm statute confers jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if the claims asserted against the defendant arise from forum-related contacts and fall in one of nine enumerated categories, including the commission of a tortious act in Florida. A nonresident defendant additionally may be deemed to have committed a tortious act in Florida through actions performed by an agent that acts with apparent authority or by a co-conspirator. The Court rejected Plaintiffs’ contention that this rule applied under the facts of the case. Regarding Conmebol, the Court concluded that the alleged tortious activities of Conmebol’s officials could not be imputed to the organization, as their actions were directly contrary to Conmebol’ s interests. The Court further held that it could not impute Florida contacts to Conmebol through its alleged co-conspirators, as the plaintiffs failed to allege how the organization itself participated in any such conspiracy. The plaintiffs also failed to allege any corporate actions by Conmebol that occurred in or were directed at Florida. Regarding Full Play, the Court found that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege that the company or its agents committed any of the alleged torts in Florida.

The Court also considered whether it could exercise personal jurisdiction over Conmebol and Full play under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which confers jurisdiction for federal claims against nonresident defendants that have minimum contacts with the United States as a whole but not with any one State. Rule 4(k)(2) also carries the requirement of the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution that the defendant “purposefully availed” itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the US and its contacts with the US relate to the plaintiffs’ cause of action or gives rise to it. Here, the Court concluded that Conmebol’s communications and business relationship with the Fox sports and Full Play’s “exploitation of the New York banking system” did not relate to claims brought, and so could not support jurisdiction.

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