Knowledge – Experience –Integrity

Civil Fraud and RICO Litigation

A recent trend in commercial litigation has been for insurance companies and other business entities to turn to certain federal and state civil fraud, RICO and unfair trade practices statutes when pursuing litigation. The reason being is that these various statutes allow for either enhanced recoveries (triple damages), the recovery of attorneys fees, or both. Because they are fraud-based statutes with enhanced recovery provisions, they generally include heightened pleading and proof requirements.

The attorneys a Nicholson & Eastin, LLP are very experienced in prosecuting and defending civil RICO, civil theft, False Claims Act and Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice cases. This experience can be very important because of the special provisions, pleading requirements and defenses available under these statutes.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and its Florida counterpart, are laws that provide for civil causes of action for unlawful actions taken as part of an ongoing enterprises. The RICO statute was originally enacted to help the federal government fight organized crime, but because the law also allows plaintiffs to recover treble damages and attorneys’ fees in civil court, RICO is now more frequently used in civil claims where a plaintiff can allege a pattern of fraudulent or criminal activity as part of the case.

The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) provides a statutory cause of action for business entities that are victimized by the wrongful conduct of a competitor. FDUTPA is designed "to protect . . . legitimate business enterprises from those who engage in unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce." The statute allows a successful plaintiff to recover damages, to obtain declaratory relief, and may allow for the recovery of attorneys fees.

The Florida Civil Theft statute allows the victim of what amounts to a criminal theft or fraud to sue for treble (triple) damages and attorneys fees.

The False Claims Act, which is addressed in greater detail on another page on our website, is a statute that allows a private person with knowledge of a fraud upon the government to sue the alleged perpetrator of the fraud to recover treble damages on behalf of the government. The private party bringing suit, known as a relator, can be entitled to recover a percentage of the recover, plus their attorneys fees.

If you have a been the victim of civil fraud, RICO or unfair trade practices, or if you have been sued under any of these statutes, please contact us to schedule a consultation.