Injured Veteran Firefighter Seeks Justice From City


Robert F. McKee: Robert F. McKee (Employment Law – Individuals, Labor and Employment Law, 2006) is representing firefighter Lt. Jason Francis, who received a thyroid cancer diagnosis, against the city of St. Petersburg. A new state law provides benefits to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer, but the city claims that his diagnosis came in May of 2018, well before the July 1, 2019 date the law went into effect.  Francis, a 16-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Fire Department underwent surgery to have his thyroid and several lymph nodes removed.

“The principal benefit is assistance with all the out-of-pocket expenses that a cancer patient undergoing treatment would endure,” said McKee. “As far as the city’s concerned, he’s out of luck.”

Francis and McKee dispute the city’s claim and contend that the diagnosis came in January of 2019. “I have no idea where they got that from,” Francis said at a press conference when asked about the May 2018 date. “I have medical documents from the hospital that state I was diagnosed on January 9th of this year.”

In spite of the diagnosis arriving before the law went into effect, they feel that the city should provide some assistance. “I’m just not looking forward to the battle. I thought they would treat me like a human asset,” Francis stated.

In a statement to WFLA, a St. Petersburg City spokesperson argued that Francis did not qualify for the benefit under the law because his diagnosis occurred in May 2018, whereas the law went into effect July 1, 2019.

However, McKee believes that the lawsuit will force the courts to test how far back retroactive coverage will be allowed.  Other than the dispute regarding date of diagnosis, Francis meets all criteria for assistance under the new law.

State Rep. Chris Latvala, a sponsor of the bill, released a statement from his office criticizing the city for the treatment of Francis and noted that the intent of the bill was not to make July 1, 2019 a hard cutoff date.

"I thought they would treat me like a human asset."



Larson & Larson: Justin Miller (Litigation – Intellectual Property, 2017) is representing the family of Imani Bell, a 16-year-old student of Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, who died after participating in outdoor activities that saw temperatures over 100 degrees. After running stairs in temperatures that were reportedly 109 degrees, Bell collapsed and later died after paramedics rushed to the scene. The school appears to have violated district policy that mandates all outside athletic activities be stopped once the heat index reaches 95 degrees. “The school has a policy,” Miller said. “The Georgia High School Athletic Association has a policy. Everyone has a policy, but no one was making sure the policy was being followed.” Miller has stated that the school has been reluctant to provide information regarding the circumstances of Bell’s death.  Miller is also a cousin of Bell.

Morgan & Morgan: David Henry (Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs, 2013) represented the Shaka Bar in Pensacola, FL. from a rival bar that sought to have the name changed because it sounded too similar. The owner of Sandshaker Bar reached a compromise with the Shaka Bar’s owners to have a Hawaiian ‘hang loose’ hand gesture underneath their logo to further symbolize a Hawaii theme. In the original lawsuit, the Sandshaker contended that tourists were often confusing The Shaka bar with The Sandshaker and were losing business.  The lawsuit lasted over three years and in the end, the owners of the Shaka Bar were able to keep their name. "We always contended it was an action without merit and that is what it was," Henry said.

Bajo Cuva Cohen & Turkel: Kenneth Turkel (Commercial Litigation, 2009) is representing former Governor of Alaska and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a lawsuit against The New York Times. A federal appeals court restored Palin’s lawsuit and her opportunity to prove her claims that the newspaper wrongly accused her of inciting a mass shooting that severely wounded former Arizona congresswoman Gabriel Giffords.    The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court cited procedural concerns with the lower court tossing out the claim too quickly before Palin could obtain evidence that might aid her claim.  The lawsuit still has a long road to go as she will need to prove that The New York Times acted with actual malice.  "Nothing in this opinion should therefore be construed to cast doubt on the First Amendment's crucial constitutional protections," the 2nd Circuit said. It said it recognized that "First Amendment protections are essential to provide 'breathing space' for freedom of expression."

Banker Lopez Gassler: Chris W. Altenbernd (Appellate Practice, 2019) is representing Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White in an appeal against a tax known as All For Transportation that was approved by voters in November 2018. White is arguing that a state statute is being violated by the charter amendment. A circuit court judge in Hillsborough County already struck down some provisions of the law but left the tax in place. White is asking that his appeal be joined to another lawsuit that is challenging a tax bond validation in the same law.  The Chair of All For Transportation, Tyler Hudson plans to have his group move forward with implementation in spite of the appeal.

Honorable Mention:

Greenberg Taurig: Kimberly Mello (Appellate Practice, 2013) is relocating from the firm’s Tampa Bay office to the Orlando office. “We are pleased to welcome Kimberly to the Orlando office and look forward to working with her,” said Orlando L. Evora, co-managing shareholder of the Orlando office. “Her significant experience in appellate matters will no doubt be beneficial to many of our clients.” Mello serves on the board of trustees of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, and on the board of directors for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Additionally, she is also a member of the firm’s National Appellate Practice, has represented clients in over 600 appellate matters in state and federal courts, including the Florida Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and Florida's District Courts of Appeal.

Beytin, McLaughlin, McLaughlin, O'Hara, Kinman & Bocchino: Mindy McLaughlin (Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants, Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants, 2013) is returning as a board member of the Athena Society in the Tampa Bay area.  The organization was founded in 1976 to support the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  The advocacy group is made up of 20 leading business and professional women to offer scholarships to high school females and academic grants to women seeking support in their careers.