How did you develop a passion for consumer law and civil cases?
I have had a passion for protecting the “little guy” ever since I was a kid. I was bigger than most of the other kids and was always the guy who stood up for the kids who got picked on. With that mindset, once I became an attorney it was natural for me to protect consumers from unlawful and unfair actions of big business.
In what ways are consumers most vulnerable these days?
In the context of class-action cases, consumers are getting hammered by the companies who are losing their competitive edge – particularly when it comes to pricing. That’s why you see hidden fees on so many levels. A few examples of this are fuel surcharges and the Plate Pass program introduced by rental car companies. The rental car companies didn’t want to add to the daily rental charge from their new toll collection product that automatically billed you for administrative fees, so they sent a separate bill 30 days later with the added fees. We made them disclose this practice and return the monies collected prior to the disclosure.
Another big issue is false labeling, especially in the “all natural” world. Some health-oriented companies overreach and underperform. They say things are natural when it’s simply not true. Consumers are not getting what they paid for. This includes supplements that are not FDA approved, like certain probiotics, and some yogurts that claim to be “all natural.”
What industries are seeing an uptick in consumer class-action cases?
The plaintiffs bar has been very cautious for the past few years. So I don’t think there has been an increase in class actions over the last few years. We have been aware of a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that were pending. Well, the courts have ruled on all of these cases and we as a bar feel that the court has given the consumers of this country a very clear road map regarding what is required when bringing a class action. Now that those cases have concluded, the plaintiffs bar will watch what big business does and see how it reacts to the rulings. The Supreme Court has protected consumers from being taken advantage of by big business. The bottom line is: big business always tends to push the envelope to gain competitive advantage over others, often resulting in unlawful or unfair actions.
How do you see the Spokeo ruling impacting class-action cases going forward?
Some thought the case would be a death knell, but we are happy the Supreme Court allowed us to continue bringing important cases forward. The ruling didn’t get in the way of that. As I stated before we now have a clear road map regarding what they will require, and we are fine with the ruling.
What are some of the important things personal injury victims may not realize when it comes to filing a claim?
The biggest is to remember to document everything. The injured party in a motor vehicle accident needs to have consistent medical treatment. Many consumers don’t realize how important it is to document everything; they are more concerned with who is going to pay for the damage to their car and medical costs. It is the lawyer’s job to educate the client, protect them and guide them.
What are some of the unique elements of Florida’s personal injury laws?
Florida is a no-fault state. Which means each party is responsible to pay for their own medical bills. Also, unless you sustain a permanent injury from the accident, you don’t have the right to have a claim brought forward on your behalf for personal injuries.
What’s the most important piece of wisdom you have recently imparted to your practice group?
To practice with professionalism. This is the greatest change over the past 30 years of my practice. We need to push to be the true professional, stay above the fray, and make others come up to our level. Never compromise this value.
Can you describe some of the significant work you and the firm do in the legal community, particularly with young lawyers?
I recently was the first recipient of the Broward County Bar Association and Broward County Women Lawyers’ Association’s “Foxy Award” for my role in sponsoring women in leadership and law. Our firm is also set to be honored this October by Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida as the Law Firm of the Year. My involvement with these organizations is all about mentoring the young and protecting the weak.