Burger King Corp

Burger King Corp. is a Florida corporation with principal offices in Miami. It principally conducts restaurant business through franchisees. The franchisees are licensed to use Burger King’s trademarks and service marks in standardized restaurant facilities. Rudzewicz is a Michigan resident who, with a partner (MacShara) operated a Burger King franchise in Drayton Plains, Michigan. Negotiations for setting up the franchise occurred in 1978 largely between Rudzewicz, his partner, and a regional office of Burger King in Birmingham, Michigan, although some deals and concessions were made by Burger King in Florida. A preliminary agreement was signed in February of 1979. Rudzewicz and MacShara assumed operation of an existing facility in Drayton Plains and MacShara attended prescribed management courses in Miami during the four months following Feb. 1979.

Rudzewicz and MacShara bought $165,000 worth of restaurant equipment from Burger King’s Davmor Industries division in Miami. But before the final agreements were signed, the parties began to disagree over many things. Negotiations took place between Rudzewicz, MacShara, and the Birmingham regional office; but Rudzewicz and MacShara learned that the regional office had limited decision-making power and turned directly to Miami headquarters for their concerns. The final agreement was signed by June 1979 and provided that the franchise relationship was governed by Florida law, and called for payment of all required fees and forwarding of all relevant notices to Miami headquarters.

The Drayton Plains restaurant did well at first, but a recession in late 1979 caused the franchisees to fall far behind in their monthly payments to Miami. Notice of default was sent from Miami to Rudzewicz, who nevertheless continued to operate the restaurant as a Burger King franchise. Burger King sued in federal district court for the southern district of Florida. Rudzewicz contested the court’s personal jurisdiction over him, since he had never been to Florida.

The federal court looked to Florida’s long arm statute and held that it did have personal jurisdiction over the non-resident franchisees and awarded Burger King a quarter of a million dollars in contract damages and enjoined the franchisees from further operation of the Drayton Plains facility. Franchisees appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and won a reversal based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Burger King petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari and won the case.

Case Questions

Question 1. Why did Burger King sue in Florida rather than in Michigan?

Question 2. Why is this case in federal court rather than in a Florida state court?

Question 3. Do you agree with the results of the hearing? Why or why not?

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