Georgia Appellate Court Affirms Order Granting Motion to Dismiss in Favor of WWHGD Client for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

November 3, 2022

Plaintiff appealed a decision from an Order from the Superior Court of Toombs County of Georgia granting a Motion to Dismiss WWHGD’s Florida-based client, Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Inc. ("CFBHN"), for lack of personal jurisdiction in Georgia. CFBHN was named as a defendant in a wrongful death action arising from the murder of a Georgia resident at a clothing store in Vidalia, Georgia. The decedent's mother sued CFBHN, among other defendants, asserting that CFBHN failed to properly manage supervision of the assailant's pretrial release on pending criminal charges in Florida in the timeframe leading up to the murder.

CFBHN is a non-profit, publicly-funded corporation under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. CFBHN does not provide direct patient services; rather it allows the department’s funding to be tailored to specific behavioral health needs in various regions of Florida. CFBHN contracted with a direct service provider that was responsible for a 14-county region of central Florida. This provider was ultimately assigned as the case manager/forensic specialist for the assailant while out on conditional release in Florida. The Plaintiff asserted that the provider’s case manager failed to properly monitor the assailant, allowing him to flee undetected to Georgia where he ultimately committed the murder.

CFBHN maintained it was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Georgia because, among other things, it is not registered to do business in Georgia, does not have a registered agent in Georgia, does not provide services in Georgia, and has no contracts with any Georgia providers. After jurisdictional discovery, several rounds of briefing and multiple hearings, the trial court granted CFBHN’s Motion to Dismiss, concluding that CFBHN was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Georgia. Based on a thorough review of the record, as well as applicable law, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court agreed with WWHGD’s arguments that, despite the broad reach of Georgia’s long-arm statute, CFBHN did not purposefully direct any of its activities to Georgia and was therefore not subject to personal jurisdiction under the long arm statute or as a matter of constitutional due process

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