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Florida man sues Prof David Rowe over Wal-Mart lawsuit appeal

Wednesday, July 11, 2012    

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JAMAICAN-BORN Florida attorney, Professor David Rowe is again facing a lawsuit, this time from a Palm Beach County man who alleges Rowe collected legal fees from him after the time for filing a notice of appeal on his behalf had passed.

Kennedy Edwards further alleged in court documents that Rowe also "enticed" him to pay money for trial transcripts "six months after he (Rowe) knew the appeal filing deadline had passed".

The lawsuit was first filed on October 13 last year in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit In and For Palm Beach Country, Florida.

Rowe subsequently filed a successful motion to dismiss the case, arguing that it failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted, failed to properly establish venue and failed Florida's attachment requirement. He described the action as "a nuisance suit which is common the US". But Edwards has re-filed the suit.

In an unrelated action also filed in Florida earlier this year, Daryl Vaz, the former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government minister, accused Rowe of libelling him in an e-mail circulated globally under the pseudonym "Paul Azan". Several top Jamaican politicians and businessmen were also libelled in the e-mail. That case is awaiting the outcome of a subpoena served by Vaz on search engines Google and Yahoo! to determine if the e-mail originated with Rowe as he (Vaz) is claiming.

Vaz has been joined in his lawsuit by principal of Rainforest Seafoods, Brian Jardim.

Among the others libelled in the e-mail are: Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson; Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding; Former Government Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Sandals Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart who is also the publisher of the Jamaica Observer.

Professor Rowe has also filed a motion to dismiss Vaz' lawsuit.

In his case, Edwards brought a negligence action on October 1, 2007 against US mega-store Wal-Mart relating to an accident he alleged had occurred on their premises. On April 29, 2009, the court documents said, his attorney withdrew from the case, leaving Edwards to defend himself. The matter went to trial on November 2, 2009 and was disposed of eight days later when the court ruled in favour of Wal-Mart.

Edwards alleged he then met with Rowe to discuss the possibility of the attorney filing an appeal with the Fourth District Court of Appeals (DCA) on his behalf. In the court documents he said he and Rowe "entered into a binding oral agreement whereby Rowe would file an appeal on Edwards' behalf to challenge the lower court's ruling".

They agreed that "Edwards would pay Rowe US$5,000 for his representation" and he allegedly paid over $5,800 in fees. "The agreement provided that Edwards would pay certain sums down on the attorney's fee and make instalment payments on the balance," said the documents.

On November 24, Edwards filed a motion for a new trial with the lower court but that motion was also denied and the case subsequently re-disposed on December 3, 2009. He is alleging that Rowe should have filed Notice of Appeal no later than January 2, 2010 but did not "more than 10 months after the December 3 order".

The documents said the DCA dismissed the appeal as untimely on November 3, 2010 and that Rowe did not notify Edwards of the dismissal until seven months later on June 21, 2011.

"Between November 23, 2009 and June 21, 2011 Rowe intentionally misled Edwards into believing that he was working on his appeal and/or that he had an appeal pending in the Fourth DCA," the documents said.

"Rowe collected $2,300 in attorney's fees from Edwards after the time for filing notice of appeal. In addition, Rowe enticed Edwards to pay $3,650 for the trial transcripts from the lower court six months after he knew the appeal filing deadline had passed," Edwards further alleged. He claimed that Rowe refused to take and return his countless calls between July 21, 2010 and June 21, 2011.

Contacted by the Jamaica Observer, Rowe confirmed that Edwards had hired him to appeal the ruling in favour of Wal-Mart. He said he was aware that Edwards had claimed in that case that he had stepped on a nail on Wal-Mart's premises and was crippled, had represented himself and lost the case. Rowe said he had made it clear to Edwards that he had to pay the costs from the lower court plus his reasonable attorney's fees and that he did not want to pay.

Rowe, who also claimed that he had no oral agreement with Edwards, said he filed a motion to dismiss and the judge ruled that Edwards' complaint against him was insufficient. But Edwards subsequently re-filed and so he (Rowe) also filed a second motion to dismiss. That motion is set to be heard by the court in September.

In the motion to dismiss, Rowe pointed to "a handwritten section of the written retainer agreement" in which Edwards was specifically informed that he must pay the costs of appeal, as Rowe was not responsible for the appeal transcript. Moreover, "the case was being brought to the court after appeal deadlines were passed". He submitted for exhibit a document titled "Engagement Letter", showing the handwritten section and initials.

"Plaintiff initialled in acknowledgement and plaintiff promised that he would pay the necessary costs to obtain the trial court's transcript. Defendant entered no oral agreement with plaintiff," Rowe said.

He added that he had taken Edwards' case because he always tried to help people in need, especially Jamaicans and African Americans.

Rowe is represented by Jamaican-born Florida attorney David Brown.

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