Florida Politics

Firm drops suit against family of paralyzed Broward County man

Eric Brody (center) arrives in Tallahassee with his parents in 2009.
Eric Brody (center) arrives in Tallahassee with his parents in 2009. Miami Herald Staff

After finding itself in a public relations nightmare last month, a prominent Tallahassee media firm has dropped its lawsuit against the family of a paralyzed Broward County man.

The firm, Sachs Media Group, had said the family of Eric Brody owed $375,000 for four years of public relations and media outreach services.

“We are a small business, and it is difficult to walk away from nearly $400,000,” Sachs Chief Operating Officer Michelle Ubben said. “But it became clear to us that it would take a long time to reach a resolution, and we didn’t want to put the family or the firm through that.”

Sachs Media Group and Brody’s guardianship released a joint statement saying they had “amicably resolved all outstanding issues.”

“The guardianship acknowledges that it entered into an agreement with Ron Sachs Communications [now Sachs Media Group] in late 2008, for services related to the passage of a claims bill,” the statement said. “The Brody family recognizes and appreciates the outstanding work the firm did to bring significant attention to their son’s tragic case.”

Attorney Daniel Rosenthal, who represents the guardianship, declined to comment further, citing other litigation in which the guardianship is involved.

Brody was 18 years old when a Broward sheriff’s deputy crashed into his car. The 1998 accident left Brody brain-damaged.

A jury later awarded his family $30.6 million. But in order to collect more than $200,000 — the maximum allowed under Florida law — the family had to persuade the Legislature to pass a claims bill.

Sachs Media Group helped with the effort, which resulted in a $10.75 million award for the family.

The firm said the Brodys had agreed to pay $375,000 for public relations services. But state Rep Jamie Grant, the Tampa Republican who sponsored the claims bill, said the language was clear that no money could go to “lobbying fees, costs or similar expenses incurred.”

Sachs Media Group sued in July.

“It was recommended to us by our attorneys that the lawsuit would be a way to open the lines of communication [with the Brody family],” Ubben said. “It did serve that purpose.”

It also led to a barrage of criticism on social media sites like Twitter. Grant called the lawsuit “disgusting” in an interview with the Herald/Times.

Ubben said Sachs Media Group dropped the case partly because the Brody family is also being sued by its former attorneys.

“We were hopeful that it might be possible to negotiate a faster settlement and resolve the contract,” she said. “But when that proved not to be possible because of the other outstanding litigation, we decided not to pursue our claim.”

Grant said he was “relieved that the family won’t have to deal with any additional litigation.”

“Our claims system absolutely needs an overhaul and a lot of reform,” he added. “This is just one example of what can go wrong.”

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.