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Civil RICO Claims: What Constitutes A “Pattern” Of Racketeering Activity?


Through a civil RICO claim, a plaintiff can seek treble damages. Recovery may be available for three times their actual losses. That being said, it is not easy to establish liability in a recovery case. There are specific criteria that must be met—including proving a pattern of racketeering activity. Here, our Miami RICO claims lawyer clarifies the standard of what qualifies as a “pattern” of racketeering activity in a RICO lawsuit.

RICO Laws are Designed to Stop Organized, Repeated Violations 

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was passed into law in 1970. Florida passed its own state-level RICO statute a few years later. RICO exists for a specific purpose. The law is designed to stop organized, repeated violations of criminal or civil laws through racketeering activity. In other words, a one-time criminal act or a one-time civil fraud violation will not give rise to a RICO case. For a plaintiff to bring a civil RICO claim, they must be prepared to prove that the defendant engaged in a “pattern” of racketeering activity.

 Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Multiple Acts Test to Prove Pattern of Racketeering Activity

How does federal law define a pattern of racketeering activity? There are actually still some minor differences from circuit-to-circuit. Florida is within the Eleventh Circuit. In 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in the case of American Dental Association v. Cigna Corporation that helped clarify that standard for proving a pattern of racketeering activity.

The plaintiffs in the civil RICO lawsuits were dentists who owned and operated their own professional practices. The defendants were a collection of insurance companies, including the Cigna Corporation. A class action lawsuit was filed by the dentists on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated dentists arguing the insurers conspired to “downcode” certain types of billing, thereby resulting in a systematic reduction of payments.

As part of the case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals clarified the standard for proving a pattern of racketeering activity in a civil RICO lawsuit. The circuit uses a standard that is sometimes referred to simply as the “multiple acts” test. A plaintiff in a federal or state civil RICO lawsuit in Florida can prove a pattern of racketeering activity by establishing either of the following:

  1. The defendant(s) agreed to the overall goal of the RICO conspiracy and worked to achieve that results; or
  2. The defendant(s) agreed to commit at least two separate predicate acts that are substantially similar sufficient to be deemed a pattern.

Consult With a Civil RICO Claims Attorney in Florida

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our South Florida civil RICO lawyers have the specialized legal expertise needed to handle these complex claims. If you have specific questions about what counts as a “pattern” of racketeering activity in a RICO case, we are here as a resource. Call us now or contact us online for your confidential case assessment. With offices in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County, we represent plaintiffs and defendants in civil RICO litigation throughout South Florida.



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