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Hearsay (Tampa edition)

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  • | 6:00 p.m. November 7, 2003
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Hearsay (Tampa edition)

Court funding

As a matter of self-interest, Florida Bar members have a keen interest in how the state Legislature handles the issue of state court funding when it meets next spring. That's when our elected representatives decide how much to allocate for court services under the voter mandate of Revision 7 to Article V of the state Constitution.

Understanding the politics of the matter, the bar's Board of Governors recently allocated $25,000 to a Florida TaxWatch study into what the switch to state funding from county government funding might mean to citizens and businesses. The bar thinks it might be a good idea to focus even more on the possible business impact, considering the Legislature's pro-business leanings.

"If the courts are not funded adequately, it's the civil trial system that will be impacted first," says Coral Gables attorney and bar President Miles A. McGrane III. "Obviously, the criminal courts have to go on because of speedy trials. Obviously, the juvenile system has to go on. We also have to make sure the domestic area is taken care of. When you triage those cases that have to go first, the ones last to go will be civil, which affects the business part of society."

Florida TaxWatch, a member-supported nonprofit and nonpartisan watchdog, estimated the total cost of the study at about $100,000, says Dave Davis, one of the group's senior research analysts. Work began on the study in June, he says, with a final report due out in February prior to next spring's legislative session.

"As you know, a lot of civil cases involve businesses," Davis says. "Certainly business has an interest, but that's just one part of (the study). We're looking at it from the perspective of access to courts whether business or citizen, timeliness and whether some of the programs considered as non-essential should be funded."

Moldy problem

When it comes to mold, even lawyers find it difficult to collect on an insurance claim. Just ask the attorneys at St. Petersburg's Yanchuck Berman Wadley & Servos PA.

In February, the law firm submitted an insurance claim to Hartford Insurance Co. of the Southeast over mold damage at the offices the law firm once occupied at 5433 Central Ave.

But the insurer rejected the claim. It argues the law firm knew about the damages as early as June 2000, according to a complaint the law firm originally filed in the 6th Judicial Circuit but is now pending removal to the U.S. District Court in Tampa. That inaction purportedly resulted in a breach of the policy's notification clause.

The law firm has retained James J. Dowling of Palm Harbor's Berger & Dowling and Craig A. LeValley of New Port Richey's Marshall LeValley & Napolitano PA to represent it in the matter. Gerald Albrecht of Butler Pappas Weihmuller Katz & Craig LLP represents the insurer.

Claim of omission

The statute of limitations expired in April on the time allowed for Monica Striker to file a personal injury claim against Karen Judge over an automobile accident. Now Striker blames Tampa attorney James S. Garbett for that omission.

Striker recently retained Timothy F. Prugh of Tampa-based Prugh Holliday Deem & Karatinos PA to represent her in a legal malpractice claim against Garbett in the 13th Judicial Circuit. Garbett did not respond to the Review's request for comment.

The civil petition claims Striker retained Garbett in January 1999 under an agreement she would pay 33 1/3% of any claim up to $1 million through filing of an answer to any lawsuit he might file on her behalf. That amount would have increased to 40% through a trial.


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