Appeals court backs Florida auto dealership

By John Suayan | Jun 12, 2019

HOUSTON – An appeals court has sided with a Florida auto dealership in its appeal of a Harris County trial court’s denial of a special appearance.

The Texas 14th Court of Appeals stated in an 11-page opinion released June 6 that it will reverse the Harris County District Court’s order denying appellant Star Motors, LLC’s special appearance.

Star Motors, doing business as Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale, was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Motorwerks Vehicle Sales LLC, doing business as MW Carline. The plaintiff alleged Star Motors “refused to unwind” a transaction pertaining to a flood-damaged 2016 Bentley automobile, the background section of the opinion ruled.

Star Motors unsuccessfully filed a special appearance and proceeded with its appeal.

Giff Hummel, general manager with Star Motors, asserted that the business “is a limited liability company organized and existing under Florida law with its principal place of business in Broward County, Fla., is not registered to do business in Texas, does not maintain a location to conduct business in Texas, and does not maintain a registered agent in Texas,” according to the opinion.

The opinion ascertained that “simple knowledge that the affects of a nonresident’s actions will be felt by a resident plaintiff is insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction over the nonresident.”

The three-judge panel consisting of justices Kevin Jewell, Kem Thompson Frost, and Frances Bourliot agreed with the appellant’s argument that “it [lacked] the requisite purposeful contacts with the state of Texas.”

“For the foregoing reasons, Star Motors’ contacts with Texas do not suffice as a matter of law to confer specific jurisdiction over it regarding MW Carline’s claims,” Jewell wrote. “Accordingly, the trial court erred by denying Star Motors’ special appearance, and we sustain Star Motors’ sole appellate issue.”

In addition to reversing the lower court’s order, the appeals court rendered judgment dismissing MW Carline’s claims against Star Motors for lack of personal jurisdiction.

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