Florida Appeals Court Dismisses FDUTPA Claim, Upholds Forum Selection Clause
Recently, the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida dismissed a Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) claim on the grounds that the dispute was bound by a valid forum selection clause. In the case of Kenneth Hendel vs. Internet Escrow Services, Inc., the plaintiff was pursuing compensation for an allegedly fraudulent art deal. Here, our Miami deceptive & unfair trade practices attorneys provide a more detailed overview of the case and explain its implications for businesses and consumers in Florida.
Case Analysis: Kenneth Hendel vs. Internet Escrow Services, Inc.
Background & Facts
Mr. Hendel is the owner and operator of an art gallery in Miami-Dade County, Florida. In 2016, he entered into an online purchase agreement to buy a piece or art for $38,000. The seller was located in Switzerland. The named defendant, Internet Escrow Services, Inc., operated the website through which the transaction occurred.
Upon receiving the art piece from the Swiss-based seller, Mr. Hendel apparently discovered that it was a forgery. He took action to return the piece and recover his money but was unsuccessful. After failing to obtain a refund, Mr. Hendel eventually filed several legal claims in Florida, including suing the defendant for alleged violations of the FDUTPA.
The Miami-Dade Circuit Court dismissed Mr. Hendel claims, including his FDUTPA claim, on the grounds that the internet-based agreement he entered into contained a mandatory forum selection clause. The forum selection provision required all disputes to be resolved in Orange County, California. On appeal, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the decision by the lower court. Neither court weighed in on the merits of the fraud claim. Instead, both the Circuit Court and Court of Appeal found that the mandatory forum selection clause was plainly visible and, therefore, enforceable.
The decision by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal demonstrates the power of a forum selection. Our state’s courts consistently look to uphold the terms of an agreed-upon forum selection clause. If you entered into a contract that contains a forum selection clause, it is likely that a Florida court will enforce its terms.
That the clause was part of an internet service agreement—the type that business people and consumers are required to click through to complete the transaction—does not necessarily mean that it will be rendered invalid. A forum selection provision in an online-based sales agreement may be enforced in Florida, as it was in this fraud case.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Florida Business & Consumer Fraud Lawyer
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida consumer fraud attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in FDUTPA claims. If you have any questions or concerns about forum selection clauses and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), we are ready and willing to help. Get in touch with us now for a confidential case evaluation. We represent clients throughout all of Southeastern Florida, including in Miami-Dade County and Broward County.