Second complaint goes to court
Last week the Florida Bar’s second of four complaints against suspended South Florida plaintiff insurance attorney Scot Strems was the subject of a lengthy hearing. This case addresses alleged misconduct in representing elderly client Margaret Nowak in a claims case involving Florida Peninsula Insurance. The Bar says Strems betrayed his ethical obligations to Nowak by entering into a second global settlement agreement with the insurance company without her knowledge or approval, pocketing the entire difference for his firm.
“This is the story about how he chose to practice this profession and how he chose to make his money,” said Bar Counsel Derek Womack. “And when he got caught, he lied to the Bar about it, using a familiar pattern of dishonesty.”
“Given the nature of the fee-shifting statute, Mr. Strems attempted to negotiate a fees schedule that would preserve proceeds to the client, believing the client had agreed to a settlement of $22,500,” said Strems’ defense counsel Ben Kuehne. “The settlement amount was in the best interest of the client, represented by an aggressive lawyer.”
The case is being heard by Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Dawn Denaro, who presided over Strems’ first Bar complaint last summer. Her final Referee Report recommended Strems be found guilty of violating 11 Florida Bar rules involving misconduct, unlawful obstruction of another party’s access to evidence, meritorious claims, expediting litigation, supervising lawyers, communication, and candor towards the tribunal. The judge recommended he be suspended for two years, followed by one year of probation. The Bar had sought disbarment. The Florida Supreme Court will have the final say. You can read more about the other pending cases here.
We share the concern for the hundreds of defendants who, in our opinion, are struggling with protracted litigation that doesn’t have to be that way. Open communication with claims professionals is still the best way to settle a claim versus some of the alleged tactics outlined in the Florida Bar complaints.
LMA Newsletter of 3-1-21