TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme
Court disbarred three lawyers following what a court justice called acts of “greed” and “dereliction
of duties” in handling a sizable insurance case.
Charles Kane, Harley
Kane and Darin Lentner were disbarred from the practice of law in Florida by the
Supreme Court for keeping millions from a settlement with an insurance company. The decision
came after it was found that all three purportedly engaged in fraudulent acts related to
the settlement obtained from the insurance cases they handled. In addition to
this, they also allegedly committed several misconducts during the proceeding and even took
advantage of their co-counsels in the said case. Charles Kane and Harley Kane were the
father and son legal team of the Kane & Kane PA; while Lentner was part of
the Watson and Lentner law firm.
"This is the worst
case of greed and dereliction of duties of people admitted to the Florida Bar
that I have seen," said Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente of the
cases, according to the Tampa
The issues started in
March 2013 when the Florida Bar filed complaints against the three disbarred
lawyers for violating Bar rules. One referee was appointed to investigate all the
complaints as these were related and pertained to the same case. In his
findings, the referee found proof of the violations earlier alleged against the
Kanes and Lentner.
According to records,
the three lawyers and their law firms launched a joint effort to pursue
health care provider clients to file for personal injury protection (PIP) claims
against Progressive Insurance Co. in 2001. Apart from the PIP claims, the law
firms decided to pursue bad faith as a separate action against the insurance
company. To address the bad faith claims, a separate specialized unit was
formed by the lawyers, namely, attorneys Todd Stewart, Larry Stewart and
The two groups of
lawyers had different sets of clients, but some PIP claims petitioners were
also listed as bad faith plaintiffs. That is, not all the PIP clients filed a
case against Progressive for bad faith.
For two years, the bad
faith attorneys worked to seek justice for their clients. In 2004, Progressive
indicated that the company was open to negotiate a settlement agreement with the
bad faith attorneys. Throughout the negotiation, the insurance company made
clear that the payment they would shell out for the bad faith cases would cover
all the petitioners as well as the potential complaints of other clients who
had not filed for a case under the same ground. In a nutshell, the settlement
agreement would be a “universal” solution to all the bad faith cases and not
just for the ones represented by the bad faith attorneys.
Later on, Progressive sought to modify the deal and also include the clients under the PIP
lawsuits. Initially, no agreement was reached with the PIP and bad faith
lawyers. However, the PIP attorneys eventually dropped the bad faith lawyers
and pursued negotiations with the insurance company.
The PIP lawyers then
successfully acquired the required number of releases to trigger the payments
under the agreement with Progressive. In total, Kane & Kane received $5.25
million. From this amount, the firm paid its PIP clients $672,742 and deducted
$433,202 in costs. The father and son legal team took $4,144,055 in attorney
fees. Meanwhile, Watson & Lentner got $3,075,000. They paid their PIP
clients with $361,470 and removed $190,736 in costs. Their total attorney fees
amounted to $2,522,792. Upon receipt of the settlement money, the law firms
discharged the bad faith attorneys and filed for a notice of voluntary dismissal
with prejudice for the bad faith claims.
The disbarment of
Charles and Harley Kane were ordered to retroactively take effect from July 14, which was the date their suspension became effective. As for Lentner, his
disbarment was made effective on June 22, which was also the same date
for the commencement of his suspension.