A former attorney for one of Florida’s leading insurance firms has been disbarred after a bar alleges she engaged in repeated acts of neglect, deceit and forgery.
Erica Lynn Mueller, until recently a partner in Fort Lauderdale-based firm Cole, Scott & Kissane, can no longer practice in the state, the Florida Supreme Court said in a ruling last week. The court accepted the bar’s complaint and the judge’s recommendation that she be stripped of her legal status after several months of disciplinary proceedings. Bar complaint lists several issues, including lack of truthfulness, misconduct, and lack of communication, and details one case in particular that unfolded in 2020 and 2021. In a lawsuit against Miami-based furniture company Rooms To Go, Mueller offered to settle the lawsuit for $325,000, although she was not authorized to do so, the bar said.
She then sent the plaintiff’s attorney a photocopy of the check she allegedly fabricated. The plaintiff’s attorney filed motions to enforce the settlement, which resulted in a court order in March 2021 to pay $425,000, the complaint explains.
Despite actions to arrest the law firm, the money never materialized. Mueller then agreed to send $550,000 to stop the seizure. She allegedly sent a photocopy of another fake cashier’s check and then said she would deliver the check personally.
But on the day of her scheduled transfer, she falsely claimed that she had been in a car accident, the bar said.
Meanwhile, Mueller told a furniture company and an insurance company appraiser that the case was still in the mediation stage, the bar said.
On April 7, 2021, Mueller informed Cole, Scott and Kissan’s lawyers that she was retiring.
In a sworn statement, “the defendant acknowledged that she gave false evidence to several parties and submitted altered documents to the plaintiff’s attorney,” the bar’s complaint reads. “In her affidavit, the defendant also stated that she was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time of the misconduct.”
Mueller later did not respond to any inquiries from the bar about this matter. The Rooms To Go lawsuit brought by an independent contractor who was injured in an RTG parking lot was dropped in June 2021.
The referee who heard the case against Mueller agreed with the decision to deprive the lawyer.
“It is imperative that a clear and unmistakable message be sent that callous disregard for clients, the Florida Bar and the attorney’s disciplinary process are serious violations that cannot be committed with impunity,” Judge James Martz II wrote in April of this year.
The state Supreme Court, which has often disagreed with the judges’ recommendations in recent years, accepted it in this case and said the disbarment would take effect September 25. Mueller is also required to pay $1,315 to cover the bar’s costs of investigating the case.
A business made headlines in Florida in 2021 and raised eyebrows in the legal community. Court records show that Mueller was an attorney in four cases prior to the Florida trial.rd Circuit Court of Appeals, including an insurance appeal that is still pending.
Mueller graduated from the University of Miami School of Law and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2008. Cole, Scott & Kissane’s website notes that she has focused on bad faith litigation, personal injury protection, premises liability, and insurance disputes. . She and the law firm’s management could not be contacted for comment Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
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