Ex-Broward County Officers Suing Lawyers For $8.5M In Negligence

While unexpected by many, the city of Miramar will not be footing the bill. This suit was filed against Attorney Jamie Cole and his firm, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman on Tuesday.

After being exonerated of rape and murder by DNA, one Broward County man successfully sued Miramar officers for $7 million. They have now filed suit against the law firm and attorney who represented them. They are looking to pay the $7 million they owe Anthony Caravella. While unexpected by many, the city of Miramar will not be footing the bill. This suit was filed against Attorney Jamie Cole and his firm, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman on Tuesday.

Their attorney, Charles Morehead, reports they are seeking $8.5 million. It will cover the $7 million verdict and legal fees, costs, and the judgment’s mandated interest. Caravella was 15 when arrested, and he spent 26 years in prison before DNA tests cleared him. A 2013 judgment determined retired officers George Pierson and William Mantesta framed the plaintiff. Mantesta was ordered to pay $4 million, and Pierson is liable for $3 million. Caravella is considered mentally challenged with an IQ of 67. This could be a consideration for the eight-member jury. They reportedly believed the officers acted maliciously. The jury posited that the officers withheld critical evidence. They also believe Caravella and Mantesta coerced a confession before the conviction. When the case was appealed in 2016, an appeals court upheld the judgments.

Police had another suspect, Anthony Martinez. He died of a heart attack in 2010 when police reopened the investigation. He was initially questioned in 1983. Martinez was dropped as a suspect when Carvella became the primary suspect.

Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman regularly represents the city of Miramar. A third officer, Bill Guess, faces no judgment. For the legal system to work, every defendant has to receive a rigorous and fair defense. Just as Mr. Caravello was entitled to a competent defense in 1983, so did Mr. Mantesta and Mr. Pierson. They believe they didn’t receive the rigorous defense they were entitled to in federal courts.

Their attorney in fort Lauderdale Charles A. Morehead III President, American Board of Trial Advocates, Fort Lauderdale Chapter 2016-2017describes the case saying, “Prior to the return of the jury verdict and, in fact, to the present day, Weiss Serota did not accurately disclose a conflict of interest that was present between the City of Miramar, and the City Attorney Jamie Cole, and Mr. Cole's representation of the city and Mr. Mantesta and Mr. Pierson in the federal lawsuit.”

All of this may have played into both the judgment and the insurer’s refusal to pay. In 2011, attorneys wrote Mantesta and Pierson a letter that the city’s interests were their primary concerns. Morehead and his team suggest sufficient attempts were not made to inform the officers of this conflict of interest. They were also not advised to seek separate counsel.

In closed meetings with the Miramar city commissioners, Cole “took positions that were directly averse to his clients, Pierson and Mantesta, but never disclosed the same to them.” The officers were only aware of the transcripts after the litigation had ended.

In closed sessions in January 2013, any potential settlement was discussed. Cole reportedly told commissioners at that time they wouldn’t have to pay any judgments brought. He suggested if they settled, the city would be responsible. Cole has released no comment. Founding law partner Joseph Serota defends his law firm’s actions. He states they are disappointing and provided the appropriate defense. Officers posit that telling the jury that the judgment would affect the officers personally was a motivator. Private executive sessions suggest the officers were not given key information presented to the commissioners.

Caravella’s suit has yet to be paid. Understandably, both the officers and Caravella face ongoing stress because of this. For the officers, Morehead reports their credit has deeply suffered, and all their wages can be garnished. Their credit scores affect any large purchases, homeowner insurance, etc. It could also affect their estates after death as officers’ pensions are not subject to seizure.

Contact Info:
Name: Charles A. Morehead III
Email: Send Email
Organization: floridainjurylawyers.com
Address: 7800 W Oakland Pk Blvd Suite 101 Sunrise Fl 33351
Phone: 954-572-7200
Website: http://www.floridainjurylawyers.com/

Release ID: 124362