On the Pulse…Our Fort Lauderdale Office

By Craig S. Hudson, Esq.*

“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” – Thomas Hardy

After practicing law in Philadelphia for 21 years, the last 13 with Marshall Dennehey, I relocated to the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office in July 2006. In 2010, I wrote an article that appeared in Defense Digest describing this office. (Defense Digest, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2010). Now, five years later, I have been asked to again write about the Fort Lauderdale office. This opportunity caused me to reflect on the last nine years. In doing so, the above quote from Thomas Hardy describes the changes that have occurred over the last nine years and my reaction to these changes.

Marshall Dennehey opened an office in Fort Lauderdale 2002 with two attorneys. When I came to manage the office in 2006, I was the seventh attorney in the office. Of these seven, four remain: Rick Ravine, a shareholder, and Andrew Marchese and Jonathan Kanov (former associates who are now shareholders) and myself. By the time my article appeared in 2010, our office had grown to 11 attorneys. Key additions who are with us today are shareholders, Michael Packer and Jeannie Hanrahan, and associates, Danielle Robinson, Ryan Burns and Alan (A.C.) Nash. Today, we have grown to 20 attorneys, with six shareholders, two special counsel and 12 associates. Combined, we bring over 274 years of legal experience in a variety of defense and commercial litigation specialties. Proudly, the Fort Lauderdale office mirrors the rest of Marshall Dennehey in that we are currently a much more diverse group of attorneys. Eight of our attorneys are women, and we are proud that among our attorneys are African Americans, Cuban Americans and Southeast-Asian Americans.

When I joined the Fort Lauderdale office, we did not have an insurance coverage/bad faith practice. That all changed when Michael Packer joined us in 2007 with the desire to build this practice group. Today, Michael, working closely with Steve Poljak, who came from our Pittsburgh office, have grown our insurance coverage and bad faith group to seven attorneys. This team of attorneys brings together a wide range of talents and sub-specialties. They handle first-party claims, perform coverage opinion analyses and, if needed, litigate claims and bad faith cases. Watching Michael develop his skills as both an attorney and manager has been particularly satisfying to me.

Nine years ago, Jonathan Kanov and Andrew Marchese were associates. They were very bright and talented, but they were still learning the ropes. Several years ago they both were elevated to shareholders. They are now well-known, respected and sought-after attorneys. While both continue to handle professional liability matters, each has developed a special niche. Jonathan handles a wide variety of complex D&O cases, particularly those involving alleged wrongdoing of individual board members. He also focuses a good portion of his practice defending those involved in commercial and residential real estate. This includes attorneys, real estate agents, title agents, mortgage brokers and appraisers. In addition to representing attorneys and design professionals, Andrew, working with Jeannie Hanrahan, has a developed a thriving practice defending condominium and home owner associations and their boards of directors. Andrew and Jeannie combine their legal and personal skills to find creative solutions to a variety of problems while, at the same time, effectively defending their clients in the courts and before a variety of administrative agencies.

As in 2008, Rick Ravine continues to lead the Fort Lauderdale office’s casualty practice group. The difference today, from just a few years ago, is that Ryan Burns and A.C. Nash are now seasoned attorneys who handle their own complex casualty cases. Both are frequently in court or at mediation. Both have been recognized by their peers as Florida Super Lawyer Rising Stars. The casualty group now contains five attorneys. They defend clients and work with a number of insurers in every type of casualty case imaginable, including wrongful death, trucking accidents, dram shop, product liability, negligent security and retail liability lawsuits. In addition, they handle PIP/SIU matters for a number of insurance companies.

Space precludes me from extolling the virtues of all the attorneys in our office. However, I would be remiss if I did not call attention to Danielle Robinson and Patrick DeLong. Danielle, also named in successive years as a Florida Super Lawyer Rising Star, not only handles insurance coverage matters, but she also represents a major automobile manufacturer in warranty litigation. Patrick DeLong, who joined our professional liability group in 2013 with 20 years experience as special counsel, has a thriving FDCPA and other consumer litigation practice in addition to a more traditional professional liability practice. The most recent addition to our Fort Lauderdale team is Zascha Blanco Abbott. Zascha has spent her entire 14-year career advising, guiding and, where necessary, representing employers in state and federal court against claims by current and former employees. I am very excited to add Zascha, who is working with our attorneys throughout Florida to defend employers. Zascha adds a wealth of employment law experience that will enhance the services we provide to our clients.

As for myself, after almost ten years of practicing in South Florida, I now consider myself a Florida lawyer, not an invader from Philadelphia. I am no longer a stranger to unique Florida laws and procedures. I know many Florida attorneys and judges, having had cases with them or appeared before them. I have taken several cases to trial with favorable results. My practice focuses primarily on professional liability, defending lawyers, design professionals and contractors. In addition, I continue to handle claims that don’t fit squarely into any specific category. When I first moved to this office, I could tell that many attorneys and judges were not familiar with Marshall Dennehey. That is no longer the case. Now everyone knows who we are as a firm, and I know our lawyers are very well thought of by the bench and the bar.

After 13 years, our team of lawyers has the experience and capability to handle the same type of cases handled by our larger northern offices. We handle every type of professional liability case, including those involving lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, design professionals, funereal directors and debt collectors. We also litigate D&O and construction defect cases. We have an experienced team ready to handle every type of insurance coverage, first-party or bad faith case. Our casualty group stands ready to defend every personal injury claim imaginable.

In conclusion, I want to say thank you to the clients who have supported us over the years and the new clients who have decided to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves. If you already send cases to our other offices and have not yet sent a case to our Fort Lauderdale office, please consider doing so. Give me a call or send me an email, and I will make sure to connect you with the right attorney to fit your needs.

*Craig can be reached at 954.847.4955 or cshudson@mdwcg.com.

Defense Digest, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 2015

Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1. © 2015 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints, contact tamontemuro@mdwcg.com.