JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Federal judges handed down $9,164,404.12 in fines Wednesday on prominent Jacksonville litigation firm, Farah & Farah, P.A.
The judges' order states 1,250 frivolous tobacco claims were filed by Farah & Farah and the Wilner Firm against the Engle Trust Fund.
Engle is a class action lawsuit named for a Miami pediatrician who defeated tobacco companies in court. A multi-million dollar fund paid by tobacco companies was set up for Floridians and their survivors who suffered illnesses due to cigarette smoking from 1994-2006. The class action in 2008 was estimated to include 700,000 people.
Attorneys across Florida represented clients who believed they qualified for a portion of the fund.
However, cases filed collectively by Jacksonville attorneys Charlie Farah and Norwood Wilner prompted a U.S. Attorney Special Master seven month investigation into possible misconduct in 2012.
The investigation revealed some cases filed by the attorneys were for deceased clients, non-smokers, those who did not suffer from one of the required diseases, and 572 that did not authorize the attorneys to file lawsuits on their behalf.
According to the order, the lawyers explained that after 10-15 years of preparing thousands of tobacco cases, some clients were deceased or unreachable once the case went to court.
The Court sanctioned Wilner and Farah as principles for each firm and recommended a Florida Bar investigation into any violations of ethics.
"[Wilner and Farah] are held to account for the immense waste of judicial resources and contempt shown for the judicial process occasioned by maintaining over a thousand non-viable claims," the order reads.
"As a result of their actions, other litigants faced increased delays as the Court had to divert its attention to cleaning up the mess that was the Engle docket."
First Coast News reached out to Eddie Farah for comment on this story, but we haven't heard back.
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