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Civil RICO Lawsuits in Florida: What to Know About ‘Continuity’


Through a civil RICO lawsuit, a plaintiff can hold defendant(s) liable for damages caused by a pattern of racketeering activity. Florida courts are clear—a RICO violation is more than “garden variety fraud.” You must establish a pattern of related misconduct. In determining if a pattern exists, one of the things that courts look for is ‘continuity’. Here, our West Palm Beach RICO claim lawyer highlights some of the key things you should know about RICO and continuity.

Proving a Civil Rico Violation: Horizontal and Vertical Relatedness

To bring a successful civil RICO claim in Florida, a plaintiff must prove that they suffered losses as a direct consequence of a pattern of racketeering activity on the part of a RICO enterprise. Some courts have described these elements as horizontal relatedness and vertical relatedness, respectively.

Horizontal relatedness refers to the pattern. There must be at least two offending acts that are sufficiently related to each other. Vertical relatedness refers to the enterprise. A plaintiff must prove that the acts in question related to the alleged RICO enterprise as a whole. If a plaintiff cannot establish the existence of both a pattern and an enterprise, the RICO claim will fail.

Continuity is One of the Keys to Establishing Civil RICO Liability  

The legal concept of continuity is one of the keys to proving the existence of a pattern and an enterprise under the strict standards under state and federal law. A civil RICO plaintiff can bring a strong claim by providing evidence that shows that:

  • The defendant(s) engaged in a pattern of similar racketeering behavior over time; and
  • The defendant(s) organized themselves into some form of official or unofficial enterprise to carry out the fraud scheme.

The importance of continuity in a civil RICO lawsuit is well-demonstrated in a recent federal appeals court decision in the case of Halvorssen v. Simpson. In that case, the court determined that the plaintiff failed to prove a sufficient pattern of racketeering activity because there were only two offending acts and they both occurred within an 11-month time period. In other words, the court assessed that there was not sufficient “continuity” to prove a pattern and enterprise under the law.

The Bottom Line: The more evidence a plaintiff can present that the defendant(s) engaged in substantially similar, organized fraudulent activities, the better position they will be in to prove liability in a civil RICO lawsuit.

Contact Our South Florida Civil RICO Lawyers for Guidance and Support

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to handle the full spectrum of civil RICO cases. If you have any questions about the element of continuity and civil RICO claims, we can help. Contact us right away to schedule your fully private case evaluation. From our legal offices in West Palm Beach, Wellington and Miami, we represent people and businesses throughout Florida, including in Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Garden, and Jupiter.



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