While studying for his law degree Californian Kenneth Gottlieb (not to be confused with former Representative and current Circuit Judge Ken Gottlieb of Florida) often bragged to fellow students that he would put his diploma to a somewhat unusual purpose. He would avoid the typical, reputedly lucrative fields: medical malpractice, contract law, Real Estate or administrative law. He’d focus instead on the most profitable specialty of all.
His career, indeed his life plan, would be to commit insurance fraud–as diabolically and as often as he possibly could.
Shamelessly he opined to all who would listen that he could so abundantly profit stealing from insurers, and do so quickly enough, that the wealth he would amass before being apprehended would far exceed the meager penalties doled out for insurance fraud.
He’d done his homework. He knew of the lethargic approach some State’s Attorney’s have regarding insurance cases. Arrests are rare. Prosecutions even more so. Indeed, despite the huge disparity in reward, fewer people are arrested for insurance fraud than for petty theft–setting the perfect stage for an actor who was not only imminently capable but, dead serious.
Year after year Gottlieb stockpiled his ill-gotten gains for the rainy day sure to come.
In 1981 it down poured. Gottlieb was arrested, charged with one hundred twenty-seven (127) counts of insurance fraud.
But…he was prepared.
While on bail he implemented every delay tactic he could muster to continue his fraudulent arrangements. It was his plan. And, when he ran out of reasons to delay or avoid trial, he argued his right to a speedy trial had been denied. The delays, the frivolous assertions and all the court maneuverings put his court date off for another ten years–until August of 1991, when his final request to dismiss was irreversibly denied.
By November of that same year, inexplicably, this self-declared criminal barrister was convicted of only six counts of the total 127 he was arrested for committing.
He barely served six months and lost his law license. But, he didn’t lose his nerve. Validating his law school prophecy, he became a para-legal for his old partner (In re Oheb, (Review Dept. 2006) 4 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 920) resuming activities like those triggering his brief incarceration, and splitting the attorney fees 25% to 75% in his favor.
That was 2006. Today, he’s wealthier than even he might have imagined—a multi-millionaire just like he wanted. Just like he predicted. (See NOTE#1 below).
Based on a true story this may be what’s happening in Florida, where insurance fraud is arguably worse than most anywhere else–especially with respect to AOB and residential property scams generally.
Aided by liberal court decisions, and a handful of anti-reform lawmakers, one dozen firms, in the name of justice, or the people, or just because they can, are doing whatever they can to get as much as they can… before someone kills their golden goose. (See NOTE #2 below).
One window to the shenanigans could be the legal malpractice suit filed by Springhill Builders, LLC against the firm headed by AOB’s alleged originator, Harvey Cohen; Cohen Grossman, PA.
Lured by promises of “insider secrets” and lawsuits with “nothing to lose”, the Jacksonville roofing contractor hired Cohen’s Altamonte Springs firm to handle 23 disputes regarding money it was allegedly owed via AOB contracts. That was 2013.
Things quickly soured and by 2016 Springhill filed suit (Springhill Builders, LLC vs. Cohen Grossman, PA) accusing Cohen and his firm of committing legal malpractice and engaging in a pattern of errors making Springhill liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, damages and court costs.
There were three specific AOB suits in which Cohen failed to dismiss its case within the 21-day safe harbor period—indeed Cohen and company kept right on litigating without Springhill’s consent and, most unbelievably, according to the complaint…WITHOUT ITS’ KNOWLEDGE!
Also, per the complaint, Cohen refused to coordinate hearings on motions with insurance company counsel, failed to timely respond to discovery requests and/or provided deficient responses, and repeatedly changed attorneys for no apparent reason, except to delay and, of course, continue receiving its hourly rate. Eventually, with scant options, Cohen withdrew from the case, citing “irreconcilable differences” with its own client.
In one instance the complaint reveals the Cohen firm was in such a hurry to sue, it failed to make sure the insured had submitted a proof of loss. In another case, it transposed the first and last names of the insured, sued the wrong insurance company, and attached incorrect exhibits.
Of course, there may be another side to this story–like the strong possibility Springhill and Cohen were in cahoots with an AOB scheme and, when it didn’t work out, Springhill found a way out of its’ losses. (See NOTE #3 below)
Still, one court said the Cohen firm was “100% responsible for filing a meritless lawsuit” and ordered it to pay the insurer $93,000 in attorney fees. In another case, Cohen had to pay $83,000 in attorney fees to an insurance company. In yet another, the court itself referenced errors in Cohen’s work, including mislabeling its client Springhill as an insured, rather than the third-party plaintiff.
Meritless suits. Delay tactics. Court sanctions and dismissals. Ring any bells?
Sounds like Florida’s version of Gottlieb’s Golden Goose!
Reasonable invoices don’t create disputes requiring an attorney. So, attorneys (around a dozen or so) must cause the creation of “unreasonable” invoices. Lots of them. And, use public adjusters as recruiters. And, training programs on “enhanced” invoicing techniques—featuring bills so high that no one (at least no one I’ve ever spoken to) would pay them—only insurers would do so, under duress, with rate increases to fall back on.
Plausible deniability is built right in. The perfect litigation scheme. So perfect, even Gottlieb would blush if he knew what was going on in Florida.
Heck, he’d probably move here!
NOTE #1: see Zalma’s website–Mr. Zalma is an internationally recognized expert on insurance, insurance claims handling, insurance coverage, insurance fraud, and insurance bad faith. Much of the story regarding Gottlieb was taken from Zalma’s book–Heads I win, Tails You Lose-2013; including: “Experienced prosecutors in some states are not even aware that the crime of insurance fraud is found in the Insurance Code rather than the Penal Code.” Note In re Oheb,(Review Dept. 2006) 4 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 920, where Gottlieb, after his incarceration, began acting as a “paralegal” and involved another lawyer in acts of moral turpitude. It was found Gottlieb agreed to split the attorney’s fees on each case he referred to Oheb: 25% to Oheb and 75% to Gottlieb whenever Gottlieb had to buy the case or otherwise had to pay money to someone about the case. Again, the Kenneth Gottlieb referenced is not former Representative and current Circuit Judge Ken Gottlieb of Florida.
NOTE #2: There is substantial documentation regarding Florida’s legal climate and why it’s the nation’s worst. It’s where: “…civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants.” I’ve made the point many times on these pages. Here are a few more sources:
Article: by Nancy Smith, December, 2016. Florida’s Courts 4th on Tort Reformers’ ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List. Sunshine State News.
Article: by Laura Mazzuca Toops, The Big Rip-off: Top 5 Strategies of Insurance Fraudsters. PropertyCasualty360.com.
Article: by Christian Camara, July, 25, 2016. Despite lack of hurricanes, claims abuse driving up Citizens insurance premiums in Florida. The Capitolist.
NOTE #3: everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. The Springhill malpractice suit is an allegation which has yet to be proven in a court of law. As always, Johnson Strategies, LLC will print any rebuttal to the allegations, or characterizations of the allegations, and do so without any edits what so ever.
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