Top Florida Insurance Law Firm Attorney Disbarred After Frauds, Misconduct

A former attorney at one of Florida’s top insurance defense firms has been disbarred after the bar says she engaged in repeated acts of neglect, fraud and forgery.

Erica Lynn Mueller, until recently a partner at the Fort Lauderdale-based firm Cole, Scott & Kissane, can no longer practice in the state, the Florida Supreme Court said in an order last week. The court agreed with the bar’s appeal and the referee’s recommendation that she be disbarred after months of disciplinary proceedings. The bar’s complaint lists several issues, including lack of truthfulness, misconduct and lack of communication, and details one case in particular that took place in 2020 and 2021. In a slip and fall lawsuit against furniture company Rooms Miami-based To Go Mueller offered to settle the suit for $325,000, although it was not authorized to do so, the bar said.

She then sent the plaintiff’s attorney a photocopy of a check she allegedly forged. The plaintiff’s attorney filed motions to enforce the settlement, which resulted in a judgment in March 2021 for $425,000, the complaint explained.

Despite lien claims against the law firm, the money never materialized. Mueller then agreed to send $550,000 to stop the garnishments. She allegedly sent a photocopy of another forged cashier’s check, then said she would deliver the check by hand.

But on the day of the scheduled transfer, she falsely said she had been in a car accident, the bar said.

Mueller, meanwhile, has told the furniture company and an insurance company adjuster that the case is still in mediation, the bar said.

On April 7, 2021, Mueller informed attorneys at Cole, Scott & Kissane that he was resigning.

In the affidavit, “defendant admits she made false statements to multiple parties and provided altered documents to plaintiff’s counsel,” the bar’s complaint said. “In her affidavit, the defendant further states that she suffered a mental breakdown at the time of the misconduct.”

Mueller later failed to respond to any of the bar’s inquiries on the matter. Rooms To Go litigation brought by an independent contractor who was injured in an RTG parking lot was settled in June 2021.

The judge who heard the case against Mueller agreed to the motion to disbar him.

“It is imperative to send a clear and unequivocal message that callous disregard for clients, the Florida Bar, and the attorney disciplinary process are serious violations that cannot be carried out with impunity,” Judge James Martz II wrote in April of this year.

The state Supreme Court, which in recent years has often disagreed with the referees’ recommendations, accepted it in this case and said the disbarment would take effect on Sept. 25. Mueller must also pay $1,315 to cover the bar’s costs of investigating the case.

The case made headlines in Florida in 2021 and raised eyebrows in the legal community. Court records show Mueller was named as an attorney in four cases before the three in Floridard Circuit Court of Appeals, including appeal of insurance claim still pending.

Mueller is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2008. Cole, Scott & Kissane’s website notes that she has focused on litigation in bad faith, personal injury, premises liability and insurance protection litigation. She and management at the law firm could not be reached for comment Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

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