What You Need to Prove to Prevail in a Civil Rico Claim in Florida
RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) refers to the state and federal laws that are used to bring criminal and civil penalties against ongoing criminal organizations. Though it is not well known, RICO claims are sometimes brought against legitimate businesses that are engaged in systematic fraud. Under Florida’s RICO statute, plaintiffs can hold a defendant civilly liable for losses sustained as a result of racketeering and other types of organized fraud.
The stakes are enormous in civil RICO claims: defendants can be held liable for treble damages—three times the actual damages—and full lawyers’ fees. That being said, establishing liability in a civil RICO lawsuit is not easy. Here, our West Palm Beach RICO claims attorneys offer an overview of the legal elements that plaintiffs need to prove liability in a civil RICO claim in Florida.
Three Things Plaintiffs Must Prove in a Civil RICO Claim
- Actual Fraud Must Have Occurred
To bring a successful civil RICO claim, a plaintiff must be able to prove that they were actually defrauded. If you cannot prove that you suffered actual financial harm as a result of the defendant’s conduct, then you are not eligible to bring a civil RICO claim—regardless of whether or not the other elements of the statute are met. It is worth remembering that plaintiffs who bring a successful RICO claim are entitled to treble damages. Of course, this means that recovering the maximum available financial relief still requires proving the full extent of your losses.
- The Defendant Must Be Part of an ‘Enterprise’
One of the most confusing elements of a civil RICO claim is the so-called ‘enterprise’ element. Proving a RICO violation requires demonstrating that the defendant(s) were involved in some type of organizational relationship that was used to carry out the underlying fraud. Courts have determined that the defendant in a civil RICO lawsuit must have a business relationship with some type of identifiable structure. More specifically, plaintiffs must prove that:
- All implicated defendants have a core relationship;
- There is a business association with a common purpose; and
- The operation in question has been sustained over some period of time.
- There Must Be a Pattern of Sustained Misconduct
Finally, RICO plaintiffs are required to prove a pattern of misconduct that is reasonably likely to continue. If a defendant committed one-time fraud, they cannot be held liable through a RICO claim. There must be a sustained pattern of similar conduct and similar fraud. Without a pattern, the plaintiff—though they may still have a viable fraud claim—will not be able to prevail in a RICO lawsuit.
Get Help From Our Florida Civil RICO Litigation Attorneys Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyers have deep experience handling the full range of civil RICO claims. As these are complex cases, you need a qualified professional on your side. For a fully confidential consultation, please call us now. From our West Palm Beach law office and Miami law office, we serve individuals and businesses throughout South Florida, including in Hollywood, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and Jupiter.