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Legal Ethics

Defendant Claims Miami Law Firm Paid for Settlement Info

Posted Jan 16, 2008 3:02 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A defendant cruise line has filed motions seeking to disqualify a Miami plaintiffs firm from pursuing 75 pending claims by passengers and workers, contending that the Wingate Law Firm retained two investigators who paid a cruise line employee to provide confidential settlement information.

The investigators allegedly paid a Royal Caribbean Cruises employee for information about the amounts the cruise line would be willing to ante up to settle workplace injury claims, according to the Daily Business Review, a South Florida legal publication. The RCC motions attach an affidavit by a fired cruise line employee whose name has been redacted, in which she contends she accepted $500 payments, plus a $2,000 Christmas bonus, for providing information about approximately 20 plaintiffs to two Wingate investigators.

The law firm denies the allegations, which Jay Wingate describes as "stupid" and "utter gibberish," according to the article. "This is just an effort to put us out of business. There was no truth about anything said in there," Wingate tells the Daily Business Review, explaining that any contacts between the firm and RCC were part of normal settlement discussions.

But Miami attorney Curtis Mase, who represents the cruise line, says the motions concern "very improper conduct" that merits disqualification. "What you're talking about is what amounts to a form of commercial bribery," he says.

The alleged payments to the cruise line employee apparently concerned only workplace injury claims, according to the article. However, Royal Caribbean reportedly is seeking to disqualify the firm from pursuing all claims against the cruise line in which it is involved, including personal injury claims by passengers.

(Hat tip: Point of Law.)

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