Appellate panel orders airplane parts complaint dismissed over lack of jurisdiction

By Scott Holland | Feb 15, 2019

MIAMI — A state appeals panel has asked a lower court judge to dismiss a lawsuit between airplane parts and repair companies.

In an opinion filed Feb. 13, the Third District Florida Court of Appeal reversed the ruling of Miami-Dade County Judge John Thornton Jr. in a dispute between Air Shunt Instrument Inc. and Airfoil International Aircraft Space Parts Co. WLL.

Airfoil filed a breach of contract complaint, saying Air Shunt owed it $31,000 as a credit for work orders it couldn’t perform. Air Shunt moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, which Thornton denied, prompting Air Shunt’s appeal. Appellate judges Kevin Emas, Vance Salter and Norma Lindsey heard arguments, and Salter wrote the opinion.

According to Salter, Airfoil’s complaint listed six work orders regarding the parts in question but didn’t attach said work orders or any contracts. The company also didn’t say Air Shunt picked up or worked on parts, nor did it allege Air Shunt contracted to work on parts in Florida.

In moving to dismiss, Air Shunt said the parts in question are in California. The company cited sworn statements from its CEO asserting the company is based in Chatsworth, California, and doesn’t do any business in Florida. The company said it has no Florida real estate holdings, personal or property insurance and doesn’t substantially advertise in the state.  

Airfoil filed a response including an affidavit from its secretary and registered agent Milton Robinson, who runs MBR Development LLC of Miami. That filing included five e-mails in which Airfoil officials — including Bahrain-based COO Khalifa Alsada — discussed past due invoices with Air Shunt representatives. In one e-mail, a man identified as Airfoil’s board chairman Ayman Alobaidli notified Air Shunt that Robinson would handle outstanding payments.

“The e-mail does not in any way indicate that the audit would take place in Florida,” Salter wrote, “or that any such invoices had or have anything to do with the aircraft parts involved in the complaint.”

Although other submitted emails reference Airfoil’s establishment of a U.S. corporate entity, Salter said that entity is unidentified in Airfoil’s complaint. Salter further noted the e-mails actually contradict the assertions in Robinson’s affidavit that Air Shunt has been doing business in Florida since 2012.

“Airfoil alleges the breach of an agreement to provide a monetary credit and to return six aircraft components from California, but the complaint attaches no contract, work order (though work orders are referenced by number on an attachment), or basis for a credit,” Salter wrote.

Airfoil also made note of an evidentiary hearing at which Robinson testified,but since neither party arranged for a court reporter, there is no transcript, leading Airfoil to argue Air Shunt’s appeal should fail. The panel rejected that argument, explaining evidentiary hearings are only appropriate once there are legally sufficient allegations about jurisdiction, and Airfoil hasn’t met that burden.

Ultimately, the panel reversed Thornton’s order denying Air Shunt’s motion to dismiss and remanded the case so he can enter an order granting that motion while dismissing Airfoil’s complaint and giving it time to amend the complaint to remedy its deficiencies.

Air Shunt is represented by attorney Allison Friedman. Airfoil is represented by MG Legal Group and attorney Juliana Gonzalez.

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