Category: news

Governor Crist Appoints Three to the Fourth District Court of Appeals






TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following appointments:

Fourth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission

· Louis Marc Silber, 61, of West Palm Beach, partner and attorney with Silber Valente & Davis, succeeding Sonja Knighton Dickens, appointed for a term beginning September 8, 2010, and ending July 1, 2014.

· Glenn Jerrold Waldman, 50, of Fort Lauderdale, president and attorney with Waldman Trigoboff Marx & Calnan P.A., succeeding Kara Rockenbach, appointed for a term beginning September 8, 2010, and ending July 1, 2014.

· Howard I. Weiss, 64, of Boca Raton, partner and attorney with Weiss, Handler, Angelos & Cornwell P.A., succeeding David Ackerman, appointed for a term beginning September 8, 2010, and ending July 1, 2014.

Daily Business Review

InPhyNet wants suit against doctor reinstated
A medical staffing company argued on appeal to reverse summary judgment favoring a doctor in a contract dispute over emergency medical services at Wellington Regional Medical Center.

By Adolfo Pesquera

2011-10-20 12:00:00 AM

InPhyNet Contracting Services wants to reverse a summary judgment favoring a doctor who once led a class action against the medical staffing company.

Beverly Pohl, a partner at Broad and Cassel in Fort Lauderdale, spoke for InPhyNet in oral arguments Tuesday at the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Broward Circuit Judge Robert A. Rosenberg dismissed InPhyNet’s case against Dr. David Soria, chief of emergency medicine at Wellington Regional Medical Center. The Knoxville, Tennessee-based company claimed Soria conspired to replace InPhyNet as the hospital’s staffing provider and violated a noncompete clause in his contract by going to work for a competitor.

Soria and his employer, Medical Edge Healthcare Group, are represented by Glenn Waldman of Waldman Trigoboff Hildebrandt Marx & Calnan in Fort Lauderdale. The attorney told the 4th DCA panel that InPhyNet’s case is built on communications between Soria and others before late summer 2004.

Waldman said the timing is crucial because Soria was temporarily terminated by InPhyNet at that time. He entered a new contract Sept. 1, 2004, and the claims against him require inferences that implicate him in the hospital’s decision to halt InPhyNet’s services a year later.

Judge W. Matthew Stevenson suggested Rosenberg ruled for the doctor because “you can’t get a judgment based on suspicion.”

Pohl insisted these were issues that should have been heard by a jury.

In a related case, the 4th DCA last week granted a request by InPhyNet to deny Soria’s attempt to revive a physicians’ class action suit by allowing an amended complaint. The court in April 2010 nullified class certification, concluding there were insufficient common elements.

The emergency room doctors sued on grounds InPhyNet did not pay them all the incentive compensation to which they were entitled.

Daily Business Review, HREC v. Broward County

Judge rules in favor of plaintiff suing Broward County
By Adolfo Pesquera

Daily Business Review
October 20, 2011

Glenn Waldman
Photo by Melanie Bell

Case: HREC Development Resources v. Broward County

Case no: CACE10-031391

Description: Contract and indebtedness

Filing date: Aug, 2, 2010

Outcome: Summary judgment for plaintiff

Judge: Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter

Plaintiff attorney: Glenn J. Waldman, Waldman Trigoboff Hildebrandt Marx & Calnan in Fort Lauderdale

Defense attorneys: Tony J. Rodriguez, Broward County Attorney’s office

Details: Broward County hired real estate adviser and broker HREC Development Resources as a consultant to help find a developer and obtain financing for expansion of the Broward County Convention Center and construction of a 1,000-room Hilton hotel project in 2007. The county selected Austin, Texas-based FaulknerUSA for construction, but the deal fell through two years later.

HREC demanded its advisory fee Oct. 29, 2009, but the county refused to pay. Further negotiations came to nothing, and HREC sued for payment.

Plaintiff case: The Broward County Commission approved an agreement entitling HREC to a percentage advisory fee if the county reached a deal as defined by the agreement. The fee would be based on a percentage of the hard and soft costs incurred by the selected developer.

Defense case: HREC was not entitled to a fee because the fee was never approved by the commission. And if the court found the fee was approved, the transaction did not occur because the project was never presented to the commission and no agreement was entered.

Outcome: In reviewing minutes of a June 2007 commission meeting, the judge found the commission approved an advisory fee for HREC. He also cited the affidavit of Broward County Chief Financial Officer Mark Geoghegan describing the commission’s establishment of an agreement and compensation schedule.

As to whether there was an actual transaction, Tuter cited the affidavit of Mark F. Schultz, president of FaulknerUSA. The commission notified FaulknerUSA on Nov. 5, 2007, that its proposal had been selected. Schultz said FaulknerUSA entered negotiations and partially funded the project pre-development costs through a $3 million deposit under financially binding portions of a letter of intent.

Broward County tried to make a distinction between “pre-development costs” and “development costs,” but Tuter was not swayed.

The contract language doesn’t require the agreement to be a final agreement on development or construction, he said in the summary judgment order.

The county agreed to pay about $2 million to cover FaulknerUSA’s deposit plus interest after the company demanded $3 million.

Examining HREC’s claim, Tuter concluded, “The letter of intent and site access agreement are ‘any form of agreement’ as defined by the contract and would trigger the plaintiff’s contractual right to an ‘advisory free.’ “

Quote: “When HREC made a claim for its fees, at that time the county refused because the county for other reasons elected not to go forward with the project at that time,” Waldman said. “The county defended primarily on the basis that the contract was never formally authorized and approved by the county commissioners, even though it was signed by the mayor, the county attorney and signed by the clerk.”

Post-judgment: The order requires the parties to meet in mediation to determine an amount “subject to a final judgment.” HREC is seeking fees plus interest totaling about $2.15 million.

Tony Rodriguez, counsel for the county, acknowledged the order entitles HREC to a fee. He would not comment on what amount the county would be willing to pay

Broward judge agrees to class certification

A Broward Circuit Court judge has certified a class in a lawsuit by physicians against one of the nation’s largest providers of emergency room doctors.
The suit filed by Dr. David Soria of Delray Beach claims emergency room contractor TeamHealth wrongfully deducted $5.4 million to $9 million from its doctors’ incentive paychecks in the five years before the lawsuit was filed in September 2006.
The class could number as many as 120 doctors across Florida who were employed by Knoxville, Tenn.-based TeamHealth, according to court documents.
The class action started as a counterclaim in a lawsuit filed by InPhyNet Contracting Services, the Fort Lauderdale-based division of TeamHealth, against Soria for alleged breach of contract, tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty. InPhyNet claimed Soria’s actions led Wellington Regional Medical Center to terminate its contract and sign with a competitor.
Soria served as medical director for InPhyNet at Wellington Regional.
In addition, the InPhyNet lawsuit alleged Soria violated his employment agreement by jumping to Dallas-based competitor MedicalEdge Healthcare Group. InPhyNet sought an injunction, claiming a restrictive covenant in Soria’s employment contract prevented him from working for another company at Wellington Regional.
MedicalEdge also is named as a defendant in the initial lawsuit. InPhyNet claimed MedicalEdge and Soria conspired to bring the contract to Medical Edge.
The class action was severed from the initial lawsuit by Broward Circuit Judge Alfred Horowitz. Both cases have been consolidated for discovery in the complex business litigation division before Judge Robert Rosenberg.
In July, Rosenberg entered a gag order in the class action, saying, “The parties shall not directly or indirectly publicly disseminate information (excluding court filings) about this litigation.” The order came after a hospital that contracts with TeamHealth for emergency staffing services received a fax from a “Dr. Smith” saying TeamHealth was engaged in a class-action lawsuit because it “outright lied to us physicians about bonuses we should have been paid.” The order also said Soria should “cease and desist from participating in the sending of any communications to defendants’ hospital clients” that are similar to the faxes from Dr. Smith.
Soria’s attorney, Glenn Waldman of Waldman Trigoboff Marx & Calnan in Fort Lauderdale, declined comment.
TeamHealth attorney Peter Goldman of Broad and Cassel in Fort Lauderdale would not comment specifically on the case, but in an e-mail said: “It is always important to keep in mind that all orders granting class certification address procedural aspects of the case, only, and are not, in any way, shape or form meant to be a ruling, preliminary or otherwise, on whether the claims asserted have any merit.” He noted his clients respectfully disagree with the court’s certification ruling and intend to immediately appeal it.
Rosenberg certified the class Nov. 10 on the condition that Soria drop his nearly identical individual counterclaim against TeamHealth.
“Dr. Soria could possibly compromise the best interests of the class as a whole for a favorable result in his own personal lawsuit,” the judge wrote. “A class representative’s sole concern must be the best interest of the class as a whole.”
Soria filed a notice to dismiss Nov. 12, and the judge issued a final certification order Friday.
Rosenberg noted Soria said he would be willing to drop his claim if the class were certified.
The merits of the class action have a direct effect on the initial litigation because InPhyNet’s initial claims would be void if the class could prove the company breached the employment agreement first.
TeamHealth employs more than 5,000 physicians and staff in its business of contracting with medical facilities to provide staffing services.
The litigation began when InPhyNet sued Soria and Medical Edge in 2005. Claiming its medical directors are responsible for the relationship a provider has with a hospital, InPhyNet alleged Soria’s decision to work with a competitor cost it the contract.
InPhyNet claims Soria’s first attempt to get Wellington to contract with Medical Edge was in the spring and summer of 2004. That summer, the hospital briefly terminated its contract with InPhyNet before reinstating it.
A year later, Wellington terminated its contract with InPhyNet for good. Medical Edge, which was brought in, formed Emergency Specialists of Wellington. MedicalEdge, with Soria at the helm, started at the hospital Nov. 1, 2005.
InPhyNet alleges Soria breached his loyalty agreement in a 2004 employment contract. InPhyNet also claims Medical Edge should have known about the restrictive convenants.
In response to the lawsuit, Soria claimed he was not responsible for InPhyNet losing the Wellington contract. Soria, who started working for InPhyNet in February 2003, claimed his relationship with Wellington helped his employer retain the contract.
Soria also claimed Wellington had the right to terminate the contract, so there was no conspiracy. He also claimed he could seek new employment once InPhyNet no longer had a contract.
Soria claims in court documents he learned about InPhyNet’s alleged misconduct on incentive payments while responding to the lawsuit against him.
Physician incentive compensation plans are profit-sharing plans offering physicians 60 percent of the profits after deducting expenses each quarter, according to the class action claims. The more profitable an emergency room is, the more money doctors would make.
However, Soria claims TeamHealth increased the expenses by creating “a fictitious or unsubstantiated accounting category identified as ‘physician benefits’ or ‘other physician benefits.'” The class claims no such expenses exist.
In response, InPhyNet claims in documents that the incentive payments constitute a small portion of a physician’s annual compensation, the charge is unique to InPhyNet and does not exist elsewhere in TeamHealth.
This is not the first lawsuit against InPhyNet and TeamHealth alleging improper accounting practices. Waldman was involved in a separate case against the companies by the medical director of Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, which ended in confidential arbitration in 2006.
InPhyNet has maintained physician incentive plans for doctors assigned to at least 15 facilities in Florida. On a nationwide basis, it employs up to 4,000 physicians.
Jordana Mishory can be reached at (954) 468-2616.

Sun Sentinal Editorial, Saturday, November 19, 2011

Still need to heed water shortage warning.
As South Florida enters the annual dry season, Audubon of Florida applauds the South Florida Water Management District for taking proactive steps toward water conservation.
South Floridians should thank Glenn Waldman, Broward County’s SFWMD Governing Board representative, who championed the call for increased water conservation. He argued for expanding conservation measures to avoid a repeat of the problems suffered through this year’s dry season.
Waldman made a motion to enact a district-wide water shortage warning and after some discussion, the board voted 5-4 to declare the warning.
Notwithstanding October rains fit for the record books, the Governing Board acknowledged that forecasts predict a drier than normal dry season and that Lake Okeechobee is still well below average historic levels.
The water shortage warning means that it is important to conserve water now because our region may be running low on water resources in the spring. A water shortage warning places our region on heightened alert for a potential water shortage during the upcoming dry season.
The warning encourages vigilance and voluntary water conservation efforts from South Florida’s water users. It also means that the SFWMD is on the cusp of going back into water restrictions if conditions warrant.
We want to avoid repeating the harm that occurred to the environment and economy during the 2011 dry season. Earlier this year, cities such as West Palm Beach were within weeks of running out of water supplies.
If steps to save water had been taken earlier in the season, hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money may have been saved by avoiding the use of expensive and environmentally risky temporary forward pumps to supply water to some users.
The South Florida Water Management District deserves our thanks for taking this step to protect our freshwater resources as we enter the dry season.
Jane Graham, Everglades Policy Associate