11th Circuit rules sanctions against Florida attorney are appropriate

By Dee Thompson | Apr 21, 2017

ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit Court has ruled that a Florida attorney deserved the sanctions imposed by a lower court in a case involving insurance fraud.

ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit Court has ruled that a Florida attorney deserved the sanctions imposed by a lower court in a case involving insurance fraud.

The court ruled against attorney Kevin Ambler, but the court also questioned the $80,000 fine levied against Ambler and his client. That question was sent back to the lower court for a decision. Ambler argued that he had not been properly warned before sanctions were levied against him.

“The short version of this case is that Ambler appeals the district court’s imposition of monetary sanctions for gross dereliction of his duties and for recklessly becoming an agent of his client’s insurance fraud scheme," the court said in its opinion. "After careful review, we affirm the district court’s determination that monetary sanctions against Ambler were appropriate.”

The case, Kevin C. Ambler v. Landmark American Insurance Co., has a long history.

In 2013, Ambler represented Danubis Group LLC in a lawsuit filed in the Orange County Circuit Court against Landmark American Insurance. The complaint alleged breach of contract and requested declaratory judgment. In January 2014, the case was removed by Landmark American Insurance to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The 2014 action arose out of a 2010 move filed by Danubis Group against Landmark American Insurance in the state court of Florida. Danubis Group had been leasing an $8,500-a-month property in Orlando. It had to drop the lease due to vandalism and robbery that required extensive repairs and had to find a new tenant. An affidavit by the tenant, Gary Metzger, backed up the robbery and damage claims. Metzger’s claims were later recanted, and Landmark American Insurance refused to pay the claim, according to court records.

On Nov. 16, 2014, Landmark American Insurance filed a motion to dismiss the 2013 suit by Ambler, alleging fraud, egregious discovery practices, fabrication of evidence and violation of the court’s discovery order. In January 2015, Magistrate Judge David Baker dismissed the case and imposed sanctions on Ambler and his client. The dismissal alleged that Ambler had violated the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, failure to obey court orders and unreasonable and vexatious multiplying of the procedures.

In March 2015, Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. ruled in favor of Landmark American Insurance and against Ambler and Danubis Group, imposing sanctions on Ambler. The judgment included $78,903.20 in attorney fees and $12,778 in costs.

In his brief, Ambler claimed that “the District Court abused its discretion by (a) failing to provide Appellant with proper notice of the Court’s intent to impose sanctions against him for his alleged improper pre-suit investigation; (b) relying on a Complaint filed in State Court for the imposition of Rule 11 sanctions; (c) failing to consider Appellant’s ability to pay when imposing monetary sanctions against him; (d) failing to allocate the attorneys’ fees between Appellant and Plaintiff; and (e) improperly calculating the attorneys’ fees Landmark could recover from Appellant.”

Ambler appealed to the 11th Circuit on May 7, 2015.

Judges Gerald B. Tjoflat, William Pryor and Jill Pryor sat on the panel for the 11th Circuit.

Laura H. Howard of Addison & Howard P represented Ambler. Lauren D. Levy of the Levy Law Group represented Landmark American Insurance.

From 2002-2010 Ambler was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, a Republican who represented District 47.

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