Defining An “Enterprise” Under Florida’s Civil RICO Statute
Under Florida’s state civil RICO statute, a plaintiff can hold a defendant legally liable for damages caused by racketeering activity. RICO lawsuits are among the most complex types of civil legal claims. There are a number or specific elements that must be satisfied in order to establish civil RICO liability. Among other things, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant acted as part of an enterprise. Here, our West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyers provide an in-depth overview of the term enterprise as defined under Florida law.
Florida Civil RICO Law: Enterprise
For the purposes of state civil RICO laws, Florida relies largely on the definition of enterprise found in the federal statutes. Under Florida Statutes § 895.02(5), an enterprise is defined as follows:
- Enterprise: An enterprise is a formal or informal association that can be made up of any combination of the following: an individual, sole proprietorship, business partnership, corporation, labor union, other legal entity, group of individuals, group non-legal entities, and criminal gangs.
In other words, the term enterprise itself is defined broadly. Effectively, any persons or entities (formal or informal) that act together could potentially constitute an enterprise under RICO law.
How Courts Interpret the Term Enterprise in Civil RICO Claims
The statutory definition of the term enterprise is rather broad. State and federal courts have provided additional guidance for what does and does not constitute an enterprise. As a general rule, a plaintiff in a civil RICO lawsuit should be prepared to prove the following three things about the alleged enterprise in question:
- There was a formal or informal relationship between all parties named as defendants;
- There was an “association” created to achieve a common goal; and
- The alleged enterprise in question has adequate operational longevity.
Without an Enterprise, there is No Civil RICO Liability
Civil RICO laws impose liability for racketeering activity. It is not a general fraud law. State and federal courts in Florida and throughout the country have consistently found that proving fraud by an individual or business is not enough to prove a civil RICO violation.
One required element of civil RICO is that there must be an enterprise. For instance, imagine that a person committed a fraud scheme. There is no company or other entity. They can be held personally liable for fraud, but no civil RICO liability would be imposed due to a lack of an enterprise.
An Enterprise is One of Several Required Legal Elements
In order to file a viable civil RICO claim (Florida or federal), a plaintiff must prove that an enterprise exists. Though, doing so is certainly not sufficient to establish civil RICO liability A plaintiff must also prove several other additional elements, including a pattern of racketeering activity and that actual damages were suffered due to the conduct of the defendants.
Call Our West Palm Beach, FL Civil RICO Attorneys Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach civil RICO attorneys are relentless, results-focused advocates for clients. If you have any questions about the enterprise element and civil RICO claims, we can help. Give us a phone call today or reach out to us online for a confidential, no commitment initial consultation. From our offices in West Palm Beach, Wellington and Miami, our attorneys handle civil RICO claims throughout Southeastern Florida.