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Pike & Lustig, LLP. We see solutions where others see problems.

Federal Civil RICO Litigation: Court Rules Thwarted Beneficiary Not Eligible To Pursue Civil RICO Claim


Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled against a plaintiff in a civil RICO lawsuit. In the case of Lerner v. Colman, et al, the federal court determined that the plaintiff—a beneficiary who suffered damage because of alleged racketeering activity involving her uncle’s estate—cannot move forward with a civil RICO lawsuit. In this article, our Miami RICO claims lawyers provide an overview of the decision from the Massachusetts-based federal court. 

Federal Court Decision: No Ability to Bring Civil RICO Claim, Precluded By Other Law 

The plaintiff in this civil RICO lawsuit is a woman named Sandra Colman Lerner. The defendant is her cousin, a man named Stephen Colman. The underlying dispute centers around alleged misconduct by Mr. Colman in relation to their uncle’s estate. Notably, their uncle passed away without a will. The plaintiff effectively argues that her cousin engaged in unlawful racketeering activity by using one of his companies to take personal advantage of a valuable water right that was previously owned by their uncle.

It is a complicated legal dispute that involves a number of different issues. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit will not allow the civil RICO lawsuit to move forward. The reason being that the court has determined that another federal statute— the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995—is the relevant factor in this case. Further, the federal determined that the other federal law precludes a civil RICO lawsuit. 

Civil RICO Lawsuit: A Powerful but Relatively Narrow Remedy 

The ruling from the federal court is instructive because it once again emphasizes the fact that a civil RICO lawsuit is a powerful but relatively narrow legal remedy for victims of fraud. A civil RICO claim can be especially effective for victims of racketeering activity because it allows them to seek treble damages. They may be able to claim financial relief for three times the value of their actual out-of-pocket losses from the defendant.

However, federal and state courts have consistently found that RICO liability is relatively narrow. There are very specific pleading standards that must be satisfied in order for a civil RICO complaint to survive a motion to dismiss from the defense. If you are considering filing a civil RICO lawsuit under federal law or Florida law, it is imperative that you have a skilled attorney on your side. A lawyer with experience handling civil RICO litigation will protect your rights and interests.

 Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Miami, FL Civil RICO Lawyer

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we represent clients in state and federal civil RICO litigation. As RICO is a complex area of law, it is imperative that you have a reliable advocate in your corner. If you have any questions about your rights, responsibilities, or legal options, we are here to help. Call us now to arrange your confidential case review. Our law firm is proud to provide top-rated civil RICO representation in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.


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