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MORSE and CAROL A. MORSE, Plaintiffs, Vs. SCOTT W. ROTHSTEIN; HOWARD A. KUSNICK; STEVEN H. OSBER; RUSSELL S. ADLER; LESLIE STRACHER; and STUART A. ROSENFELDT, Defendants. ______________________________/ COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS 1. This is an action for damages in excess of $15,000.00, alleging claims including
professional malpractice, negligent supervision, and breach of fiduciary duty, among others. 2. Plaintiffs, Edward J. Morse and Carol A. Morse, (collectively referred to
sometimes as “Morse”) are residents of the State of Florida. 3. Defendant, Scott W. Rothstein, (“Rothstein”), upon information and belief, is a
resident of the State of Florida who has conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and in particular in Broward County, Florida. Rothstein was recently disbarred by the Florida Bar, but at all material times held himself out to the public as a licensed attorney and managing partner of the Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler (“RRA”) law firm. 4. Defendant, Steven H. Osber, (“Osber”), holds himself out as a licensed Florida
attorney, and at all times material has ostensibly been a partner at the firm of RRA in Fort 524930-1
Lauderdale, Florida. As such, Mr. Osber has regularly conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court. 5. Defendant, Stuart A. Rosenfeldt (“Rosenfeldt”) has held himself out during all
material times as a licensed Florida attorney as well as a co-founding shareholder and President of the law firm of RRA. Rosenfeldt has conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court. 6. Defendant, Russell S. Adler (“Adler”) has held himself out during all material
times as a licensed Florida attorney as well as a name Partner and Vice President of the law firm of RRA. Adler has conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court. 7. Defendant Howard A. Kusnick (“Kusnick”) has held himself out during all
material times as a licensed Florida attorney and Partner in the RRA law firm. Kusnick has conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court. 8. Defendant Leslie “Les” Stracher (“Stracher”) has held himself out during all
material times as a licensed Florida attorney, and as a Partner in the RRA law firm. Stracher has conducted substantial and not isolated business activity in the State of Florida, and is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of the Court.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND OF CASES HANDLED BY RRA FOR MORSE The Jan Jones Case
Sometime in 2006, Plaintiffs retained Defendant, Scott Rothstein to represent
them in an action they wished to file against Jan Jones International, Inc. a/k/a Icon by Jan Jones (“Jones”), arising from a dispute concerning designer services provided by Jones at Morses’ townhouse property in Boca Raton. 10. Defendants, Rothstein and Osber filed suit on behalf of Edward and Carol Morse
in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida, under Case Number 2006-CA-004523XXXMB AB (“Jan Jones case”). Upon information and belief, Osber had day to day responsibility for the handling of the file, while Rothstein at all material times became the conduit of information to and from the firm and Morse. 11. Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that counsel representing them in
the Jan Jones case have failed to meaningfully communicate with Morse, failed to advise them of scheduled depositions, negotiated a purported settlement on behalf of Plaintiffs without their knowledge and consent, and have consented to sanction orders arising from Plaintiffs’ failure to sign a Settlement Agreement that was never presented to, or agreed as to terms, by Plaintiffs. The Builder Services Case 12. In June, 2007, a lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court under Case No.
502007CA009733XXXXMB by Plaintiff Builder Services Group Inc. (the “Builder Services case”) in which Ed and Carol Morse were listed as Defendants. 13. Plaintiffs retained Rothstein to assist them in the matter, and Osber was again
given day to day responsibility for the matter. 14. Ed and Carol Morse were served with process on or about July 13, 2007, and no
responsive pleadings were timely filed on their behalf by Defendants, thus resulting in entry of a Default against Plaintiffs in August 2007. 524930-1
After a Default Final Judgment was entered against Morse in December, 2007,
Defendant Osber finally filed a Motion to Set Aside the Default Judgment and for Extension of Time on or about January 7, 2008, which motion was denied by the Court on or about January 31, 2008. 16. Osber and Rothstein proceeded to file a Notice of Appeal in an attempt to
challenge the denial of their Motion to Set Aside the Judgment, but the appellate court ruled that the appeal seeks review of a “non-final order”, and ultimately the Appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in June 2008. Ultimately the Morses failed to have their rights and defenses properly litigated in the case as a result of the failure of Plaintiffs’ lawyers to properly file pleadings on their behalf. The Mizner Lake Case 17. Plaintiffs also hired Rothstein to prosecute a case on their behalf against Mizner
Lake Estates Limited Partnership, in or around July, 2006. A Complaint was filed on or about July 17, 2006, under Palm Beach Circuit Court Case No. 502006CA007077XXXXMB (the “Mizner Lake case”). 18. In the Mizner Lake case, Rothstein and Osber represented Plaintiffs, and through
their failure to communicate with Morse the Defendant had filed several Motions to Compel seeking to enforce the parties’ “interim agreement,” and seeking to have the Court enter an Order to Show Cause why the Morses Should Not be Held in Contempt of Court. 19. The Morses were not notified that they might be held in contempt of Court, or that
they were required to sign any documents for which opposing counsel was attempting to hold them in contempt. In fact the Morses signed a Settlement Agreement, which was apparently not turned over to Defendants for reasons unknown to Plaintiffs. 524930-1
Ultimately, in or about December 2008, Defendants Osber and Rothstein
stipulated to the entry of an “Agreed Order on Motion to Show Cause re Plaintiffs’ Failure to Execute Settlement Agreement”, and dismissed the case after a hearing on Defendant’s Motion for Settlement. 21. Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that the Mizner Lake case was
dismissed with the knowledge and consent of Plaintiffs’ lawyers, including Defendants Osber and Rothstein, even though it does not appear that Plaintiffs’ claims were properly litigated and presented to the Court on behalf of the Morses, or that Plaintiffs actually received anything from their purported settlement. The Maine Case 22. In addition to the botched litigation matters handled by RRA lawyers on behalf of
Ed and Carol Morse in South Florida, Rothstein also claimed that he could assist Plaintiffs in a dispute involving the Morses’ property in Maine, and specifically involving an improper commercial HVAC system that was installed in the Morses’ property in Knox County, Maine. 23. Rothstein and Osber purported to work with Plaintiffs, and to engage co-counsel
in Maine, due to an alleged “conflict” involving the adverse party W.H. Demmons a/k/a Maine A/C. 24. Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that Rothstein and Osber sent co-
counsel the content of a back-dated settlement letter; however as of the present time there has been no action filed, no actual settlement, and the Morses still have an overpriced and improper HVAC system in their Maine house.
As a result, once again, Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that their
lawyers at RRA, including Osber and Rothstein, failed to protect them and failed to reasonably act with due diligence to protect their clients’ rights 26. In each of the foregoing legal matters, Defendant Stracher, due to his relationship
with the Morse family, has held himself out to Ed and Carol Morse as a trusted advisor who would supervise the various matters being handled by RRA lawyers on behalf of Morse, to make sure that their interests were protected. COUNT I – PROFESSIONAL MALPRACTICE – ROTHSTEIN AND OSBER 27. 28. Plaintiff readopts and re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 26 above. In connection with the above-referenced legal matters, including the Jan Jones
case, the Builder Services case, the Mizner Lake case and the Maine case, Plaintiffs Ed and Carol Morse retained the services of Rothstein and his colleagues at RRA to represent them in the various matters. 29. Rothstein brought co-defendant Osber into these matters, and Plaintiff is informed
and reasonably believes that Rothstein and Osber were the attorneys at RRA primarily responsible for handling the Jan Jones case, the Builder Services case, the Mizner Lake case and the Maine case. 30. In their handling of the legal matters described herein, Rothstein and Osber owed
a professional standard of care to Ed and Carol Morse, including a duty to exercise that degree of knowledge, skill, prudence, diligence and standard care customarily exercised by other lawyers engaged in the practice of law in South Florida. Plaintiffs would submit that such a duty entails, at a minimum, a duty to pursue Plaintiff’s claims diligently and professionally, a duty to charge a reasonable fee for their services and account for all money entrusted to them, a duty to 524930-1
communicate with their clients consistent with rules governing the Florida Bar, a duty to notify clients of settlement offers, and a duty of utmost loyalty. 31. Both Rothstein and Osber neglected their duties and deviated from the appropriate
standards of care owed to Plaintiffs Ed and Carol Morse, by, among other possible failings: a) Failure to properly and diligently prosecute the Jan Jones case on behalf of Plaintiffs; b) Failure to timely file papers in the Builder Services case to protect Plaintiffs’ interests, resulting in a default final judgment being entered against Morse; c) Failure to properly and diligently prosecute the Mizner Lake case to fruition; d) Failure to communicate with Plaintiffs concerning the nature and true status of the various matters, and regarding settlement offers and purported agreements being exchanged and negotiated in each case; e) Apparent negotiation and stipulation for entry of Court Orders in both Jan Jones and Mizner Lake cases which sanction Ed and Carol Morse, and/or which threaten to find them in contempt of Court as a result of the Morses’ failure to execute documents that were unfamiliar to the Morses; f) Refusal to take any meaningful steps to settle the Maine case, and to obtain relief for the clients associated with the improper HVAC equipment installed in the Morses’ property in Maine; and g) Refusal to provide information and copies of all relevant documents in the files upon request of Plaintiffs (through counsel). 32. As a proximate result of these deviations of standard of care by Rothstein and
Osber, Plaintiff has suffered considerable damages.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Edward Morse and Carol Morse demand judgment against Defendants Rothstein and Osber jointly and severally for professional malpractice, together with such further and other relief as the Court deems just and proper. COUNT II – NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION – ROSENFELDT, ADLER, STRACHER 33. This is a claim for negligent supervision against Defendants Stuart Rosenfeldt,
Russell Adler and Leslie Stracher, in which paragraphs 1 through 26 and 31 are readopted and re-alleged as if fully set forth herein. 34. At all material times, Defendant Rosenfeldt was a practicing attorney, holding
himself out as a founding partner, shareholder, and President of the RRA firm. 35. At all material timed, Defendant Adler was a practicing attorney holding himself
out as a name partner and Vice-President of the RRA firm. 36. At all material times, Defendant Stracher was a practicing attorney, holding
himself out as a partner of the RRA firm. In addition, due to his close personal and professional relationship with the Morse family, Stracher purported to supervise work performed on behalf of the Morse family by RRA lawyers, to make sure that their interests were being protected. 37. As such, Rosenfeldt, Adler and Stracher each had a duty to supervise the legal
work being done by RRA lawyers (including Rothstein and Osber), and to take reasonable steps to make sure that RRA lawyers handled litigation matters in a professional and timely manner, in which the clients’ interests were protected and in which clients were kept informed and involved in making key decisions about their cases. 38. Plaintiff is informed and reasonably believes that under while Rosenfeldt, Adler
and Stracher did nothing to protect Plaintiffs Ed and Carol Morse, the Morses’ legal matters were
grossly mishandled, settlements were negotiated independent of any meaningful consultation with Plaintiffs, and the legal matters described above were either ignored, mishandled, or both. 39. and Stracher: a) failed to maintain any semblance of corporate formalities at the law firm, including a failure to see that appropriate shareholder meetings were held, books maintained, minutes taken, etc; b) failed to supervise employees of the firm to make sure that accounting safeguards were in place, and that Florida Bar rules were being followed regarding billing and trust fund safeguards; c) failed to take any action while their partner Rothstein created a virtual “inner sanctum” and “compound” within the walls of the law firm with excessive security, hidden cameras and microphones, and other obvious tell-tale signs of secrecy and wrongful conduct; d) failed to notice or take any action when spending and staff salaries at the firm exceeded firm revenues by absurd levels; and (e) failed to diligently act to protect client’s rights, including the failure to monitor and supervise litigation attorneys so as to make sure that client matters were being handled responsibly, pleading deadlines were calendared, and clients were kept informed of key developments in the cases for which the firm was retained. 40. As a proximate result of these foregoing negligent actions on the part of Specifically, Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that Rosenfeldt, Adler
Defendants Rosenfeldt, Adler and Stracher, Plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer damages.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Edward Morse and Carol Morse demand judgment against Defendants Rosenfeldt, Adler and Stracher, for negligent supervision, jointly and severally, together with such further and other relief as the Court deems just and proper. COUNT III – BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY (ALL DEFENDANTS) 41. 42. Plaintiffs readopt and re-allege Paragraphs 1-26 and 31 as if fully set forth herein. Each of the Defendants in this action, at all material times, has owed Plaintiffs Ed
and Carol Morse a fiduciary duty, including a duty of utmost loyalty, and a duty to act in the Morses’ best interests in connection with the legal matters entrusted to Defendants’ law firm for handling. Each of the Defendants hereto was in a position of superiority and control, in which Plaintiffs reposed trust and confidence in their legal professionals at RRA. 43. Specifically, Rothstein and Osber, at all material times, were the attorneys at RRA
primarily responsible for the day-to-day handling of the Jan Jones case, the Builder Services case, the Mizner Lake case and the Maine case. As the counsel directly responsible for these matters, Rothstein and Osber owed the Morses a fiduciary duty to advise, counsel and protect their clients. 44. Defendants Rosenfeldt and Adler, as founding partners of the RRA firm and as
Firm President and Vice-President (respectively), undertook to exercise control in a supervisory capacity over the operations of the RRA firm, and over lawyers such as Osber. 45. Defendant Stracher, as a partner of the RRA firm, and as a result of his close
personal and professional relationship with the Morse family, undertook to exercise control and supervision over the legal matters being handled at RRA for the Morses, and to make sure that his clients were protected by lawyers at his law firm.
Defendant Kusnick owed a fiduciary duty of loyalty to clients of the RRA firm,
including a duty not to provide legal services to parties with an adverse interest to the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are informed and reasonably believe that in or around June 2009, while Kusnick purported to be a partner and member of the RRA firm, he represented “The Marvin Companies” and wrote a letter to Atty. Scott Rothstein, on letterhead of “Kusnick & Associates, Attorneys at Law” using a Margate address, in which he negotiated and “confirmed” a settlement with the Morses for payment of $310,000. This representation of an adverse party is clearly a breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty owed to clients of RRA. 47. Plaintiffs Ed and Carol Morse placed their trust and confidence in the Defendants,
believing at all material times that Defendants were acting in the Morses’ best interests to advise, counsel and protect them and to make sure that any professionals at the firm assigned to their cases would handle them responsibly and professionally. 48. Each of the Defendants in this action breached their fiduciary duties owed to Ed
and Carol Morse. 49. As a proximate result of these breaches of fiduciary duties, Ed and Carol Morse
suffered damages. WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs seek damages against Defendants Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler, Osber, Stracher and Kusnick for breach of fiduciary duty, jointly and severally, together with such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper. COUNT IV -BREACH OF DUTY OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING (ALL DEFENDANTS)
Plaintiffs readopt and re-allege paragraphs 1-26 and 31 as if fully set forth herein. Each of the Defendants to this action owed the Plaintiffs, as clients of the RRA
firm, a duty to exercise good faith and fair dealings with Ed and Carol Morse. 52. Specifically, Plaintiffs submit that as legal professionals and members of the RRA
firm, each Defendant owed Plaintiffs a duty of good faith, fair dealing, honesty, loyalty, and a duty to see that Plaintiffs’ legal matters were handled responsibly, efficiently, and in their best interests. 53. Plaintiffs submit that each of the Defendants breached this duty of good faith and
fair dealing by virtue of the following acts or omissions: a) Failure to represent the Morses’ best interests in the litigation matters described herein; b) Failure to properly communicate with clients, and associated failure to obtain clients’ consent before negotiating purported settlements; c) Failure to diligently pursue Plaintiffs’ claims and defenses, leading to defaults, and consenting to orders seeking to sanction Plaintiffs or have Plaintiffs found in contempt of court; d) Continued delay and stall tactics; and e) Representation of parties like The Marvin Companies with an adverse interest to Plaintiffs (as to Defendant Kusnick). 54. As a result of these breaches of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
Plaintiffs have suffered damages. WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs, Edward J. Morse and Carol Morse demand judgment for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, jointly and severally, against Defendants Rothstein, Osber, Rosenfeldt, Adler, Kusnick and Stracher together with such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper. 524930-1
DATED _______________________. TRIPP SCOTT, P.A. Attorneys for Plaintiff, Edward J. Morse 110 SE 6th Street, 15th Floor Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301 Tel. 954-525-7500 Fax. 954-761-8475 By________________________________ Edward J. Pozzuoli FBN: 717363 John M. Mullin FBN: 777323 Roberta M. Deutsch, Esq. Co-Counsel for Plaintiff, Carol A. Morse 2499 Glades Rd., #110 Boca Raton, FL 33431-7260 Phone: 561-368-1008 Fax: 561-368-1009 FBN: 743828 Gerald J. Houlihan, Esq. Co-Counsel for Plaintiff, Carol A. Morse Houlihan & Partners, P.A. 9130 S. Dadeland Blvd., #1209 Miami, FL 33156-7848 Phone: 305-460-4091 Fax: 305-397-0955 FBN: 458430
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