A Coral Springs-based attorney accused of misconduct while pursuing thousands of cases against Florida insurance companies should be found guilty and suspended from practice for two years, a referee recommended after an eight-day trial.

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The state Supreme Court has final say for how Scot Strems will ultimately be punished. The Florida Bar, which petitioned for an emergency suspension that began on June 9, argued that Strems should be disbarred.

Property insurers saw the Strems suspension and trial as vindicating their often-voiced stance that misconduct by a dozen or so law firms, which they call “bad actors,” are abusing the court system by bombarding insurers with lawsuits that drive up insurance costs for consumers.

Strems Law Firm P.A., they say, is among a dozen or so firms operating as lawsuit mills that target insurers, often without the knowledge of property owners named as plaintiffs, to generate lucrative legal fees worth many times more than the home repairs in dispute.

Strems’ firm, which employed 20 attorneys in six offices across the state, filed 8,756 suits against property insurers before his emergency suspension. Of them, nearly 5,000 were filed in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

The Oct. 8 recommendation by the referee in the proceedings against Strems, Judge Dawn Denaro of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami, followed a trial that lasted from Sept. 8 to 16.

Denaro found in September that the Bar had proven Strems and his firm violated 11 rules that govern attorneys’ behavior in the state. They include a rule barring attorneys from engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, or from knowingly filing evidence known to be false.

Strems also violated rules requiring attorneys to represent clients with reasonable diligence and promptness, Denaro found.

Between 2016 and 2018, Strems’ firm had about 700 cases “which

As home insurance prices are poised to increase sharply, the South Florida Sun Sentinel asked leading insurance experts to provide their views of the disintegrating state of the market. Here’s what they had to say. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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Locke Burt, president and CEO, Security First Insurance Co.

Insurance cost drivers are well known and have been reported before — bad weather, increased reinsurance costs, shady contractors, aggressive plaintiffs bar with a favorable legal environment, water losses, fraud. What’s different is the trends seem to be accelerating and the Legislature has not done anything meaningful to change the trajectory of increased costs which, under Florida law, must be passed on to consumers in the required annual rate filings.

The private sector is shrinking and raising rates as fast as they can because the losses are not sustainable and the providers of additional investment capital simply do not believe that the situation in Florida is going to improve for several years. That’s why the public companies are selling for 50 cents on the dollar.

This situation won’t change until legislators hear from their constituents and decide to do something, the weather improves, or the lawyers disappear.

Travis Miller, insurance regulatory attorney, Radey Law

In Florida, we face unique but foreseeable challenges due to our substantial coastal exposures and the corresponding hurricane risk. Insurers anticipate these challenges and typically are well prepared to meet them. However, these challenges have been compounded in recent years by other issues that are not meteorological but instead are behavioral. Simply put, loss experience in Florida has deteriorated to a point historically unseen in this state and significantly worse than in other states following similar events.

The conditions in the current market just reflect how these concerns manifest over time if

As home insurance prices are poised to increase sharply, the South Florida Sun Sentinel asked leading insurance experts to provide their views of the disintegrating state of the market. Here’s what they had to say. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Locke Burt, president and CEO, Security First Insurance Co.

Insurance cost drivers are well known and have been reported before — bad weather, increased reinsurance costs, shady contractors, aggressive plaintiffs bar with a favorable legal environment, water losses, fraud. What’s different is the trends seem to be accelerating and the Legislature has not done anything meaningful to change the trajectory of increased costs which, under Florida law, must be passed on to consumers in the required annual rate filings.

The private sector is shrinking and raising rates as fast as they can because the losses are not sustainable and the providers of additional investment capital simply do not believe that the situation in Florida is going to improve for several years. That’s why the public companies are selling for 50 cents on the dollar.

This situation won’t change until legislators hear from their constituents and decide to do something, the weather improves, or the lawyers disappear.

Travis Miller, insurance regulatory attorney, Radey Law

In Florida, we face unique but foreseeable challenges due to our substantial coastal exposures and the corresponding hurricane risk. Insurers anticipate these challenges and typically are well prepared to meet them. However, these challenges have been compounded in recent years by other issues that are not meteorological but instead are behavioral. Simply put, loss experience in Florida has deteriorated to a point historically unseen in this state and significantly worse than in other states following similar events.

The conditions in the current market just reflect how these concerns manifest over time if not addressed.

A Florida rapper allegedly pocketed more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds, which he used to buy a Ferrari and other luxe items, federal prosecutors said.

Diamond Blue Smith — who is a member of the group Pretty Ricky — was charged this week for his role in a $17 million coronavirus relief scheme, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Prosecutors allege that Smith — who also appears on the show “Love & Hip Hop: Miami” — obtained $427,000 through his company, Throwbackjersey.com, by falsifying documents for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

The PPP program was meant to help struggling small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

LOAN FORGIVENESS UNDERWAY FOR SBA’S PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM

The recording artist also was able to secure another PPP loan of $708,00 through another company, Blue Star Records, prosecutors said.

He then allegedly used the loan proceeds to buy a $96,000 Ferrari as well as $2,290 in goods from Versace.

On another occasion, he spent more than $27,176 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, prosecutors said.

The FBI also accused Smith in a complaint of fraudulently seeking PPP loans on the behalf of others in order to get kickbacks.

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At least a dozen other people are charged in the scheme, which secured at least $17.4 million in relief funds, prosecutors said.

Smith’s Ferrari — it was not immediately clear which model — was seized when he was arrested Monday on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — About 8,800 part-time union workers at Walt Disney World in Florida will be part of the 28,000 layoffs in Disney’s parks division in California and Florida, union officials said Wednesday.

The addition of the union workers to the almost 6,500 nonunion layoff already announced brings the Disney-related job losses in Florida to more than 15,000 workers.

Disney officials announced last week that it was laying off 28,000 workers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involved part-time workers and they ranged from salaried employees to hourly workers.

Disney’s parks closed last spring as the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened this summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen as the company awaits guidance from the state of California.

In a letter to employees, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experience and Product, said California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen” exacerbated the situation for the company.


Disney has soared to success with the breadth of its media and entertainment offerings, but is now trying to recover after the coronavirus pandemic pummeled many of its businesses. It was hit by several months of its parks and stores being closed, cruise ships idled, movie releases postponed and a halt in film and video production.

The layoffs of the part-time union workers were announced by the Service Trades Council Union, a coalition of six unions that represents 43,000 workers at Disney World.

“These are unprecedented times,” the Service Trades Council Union said in a statement. “It is unfortunate anytime a worker is laid off and the mass layoffs that Disney is facing are extremely difficult for 1,000s of Cast Members.”

No fulltime workers, also called cast members, will be laid off under the deal the unions