Traffic ticket firm sues over unlicensed law practice claims
By CURT ANDERSON
Nov. 08, 2017
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida company that provides a way to resolve traffic tickets using a cellphone or computer filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming The Florida Bar and a more traditional ticket firm are conspiring to shut it down by making false allegations against it.
The company, TIKD, seeks damages of more than $11 million to compensate for lost revenue from the Bar and from The Ticket Clinic, a law firm that operates across the country. TIKD also wants a Miami federal judge to rule that its operations are legal and prevent The Ticket Clinic from filing ethical claims against attorneys with whom TIKD works, CEO Chris Riley said.
Riley said the Bar, which regulates the legal profession in Florida, and Ticket Clinic are acting together to shove TIKD out of business and limit consumer choice, by making false allegations that TIKD is practicing law without a license.
TIKD currently operates in parts of Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, California, and the District of Columbia, and plans to expand into at least 30 states altogether, he said.
"Their behavior is anticompetitive. It's anti-consumer. The two of them are acting together to remove TIKD from the marketplace," Riley said. He described the product his company offers as "technology and innovation solving a very common and difficult problem for people."
Florida Bar spokeswoman Karen Kirksey declined to comment. Ticket Clinic CEO Mark Gold said he wanted to review the lawsuit before commenting.
TIKD, which launched in February, works this way in Florida: A driver who gets a traffic ticket can contact the company on a cellphone and be offered a one-time charge below the amount of the ticket. TIKD connects the driver with an independent attorney for no additional costs or fees, and the attorney handles the case without the driver having to appear in court.
If the ticket is not dismissed, TIKD pays any fines, and if the driver gets points on his or her license, TIKD will fully refund the one-time charge. The attorneys are not employees of TIKD but are paid a flat rate per case, the company says. Drivers also can pay the one-time charge in installments.
About 7,000 drivers have used the service so far, and have saved an average of $30 per ticket, the company said in an emailed statement.
According to the lawsuit, The Ticket Clinic filed a complaint earlier this year with the Bar, which launched an investigation into claims TIKD was engaged in the unlicensed practice of law. In addition, the lawsuit says, Ticket Clinic attorneys began filing grievances against individual attorneys who worked with TIKD, threatening to try to have them disbarred — forcing some to drop their affiliation with TIKD.
"TIKD is challenging the legal profession, which has an unfortunate history of putting the interests of its members ahead of the interests of consumers," said TIKD's lead attorney Ramon Abadin, a past president of the Florida Bar. "The Florida Bar has an obligation to help make legal services accessible and affordable to everyone, but its treatment of TIKD is reducing access, not increasing it."
Although the Bar investigation is ongoing, the TIKD lawsuit says a staff opinion has surfaced raising concerns that the company is engaged in the unlicensed practice of law and other unethical conduct.
This story has been edited to correct the spelling of the company's name: TIKD, not TICKD. Corrects word to "offers," instead of "officers" in 5th paragraph.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt