Alan Goldfarb has been a tough competitor all his life. He played basketball in college, works out daily at the gym and loves playing hardball in court. “A trial lawyer has to be in good physical and mental shape,” says Goldfarb, founding partner of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. in Miami. “It takes a lot of stamina to prepare your case, and no matter how much you do in advance, there’s always more work you have to do each night during a trial.”
Drawing on that internal strength, discipline and dedication, Goldfarb represents plaintiffs in all types of major personal injury cases, from electrocution deaths to trucking and maritime accidents, medical malpractice and product liability claims. In a career that spans almost 40 years, Goldfarb has tried more than 300 cases to verdict, helping clients achieve more than $400 million in verdicts and settlements.
“A good trial lawyer has to be a strong researcher, and be willing to dig into the case,” Goldfarb says. “You also need to be creative in developing your strategies - looking for the most persuasive arguments in your case.” In fact, a lot of the rules in sports also apply to the practice of law,” Goldfarb adds. “You have to follow the rules, and the judge serves as a referee. You might not like the call, but you have to follow the ruling.”
Goldfarb has been a hard worker all his life. Born in New York, he moved to Miami Beach at age 9 with his mother and two sisters following his father’s death. “It was pounded into my head as a kid that I’d better get a college scholarship,” he recalls. A natural athlete, Goldfarb earned a “full-ride” basketball scholarship to Clemson University and played “hoops” for the Tigers. “But I looked around and saw there were other guys who were taller and stronger than me, so I realized I’d better focus on my studies. I began trudging to the library night after night, and transferred that discipline I’d learned from athletics into my academic career,” he says.
After graduating from Clemson, Goldfarb enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law and earned his degree in 1972. He spent one year handling commercial cases, then shifted his practice to personal injury cases and has never looked back. “I really like the results-oriented focus of my trial work,” he says. “You have to really strive for the win. In all these years, I have only billed a handful of clients on an hourly basis.”
Looking back on his early days, Goldfarb says the 1970s was a “wonderful time” to be a trial lawyer. “Today, most defendants have taken a hard-line approach to litigation,” he says. “Rather than pay the fair value of the claim, they try to wear your down, wear you out, out-paper you and out-expense you.” Noting that it can take several years and $300,000 to $400,000 in out-of-pocket costs to bring a major case to trial, he adds. “You have to have the resources and the attitude to stay in the fight with the corporate big guys.”
Focusing on Malpractice
Through the years, Goldfarb has focused much of his practice on medical malpractice cases. “I’ve found that once you start digging into the evidence, you find more and more medical malpractice problems,” he says. “But you have to bring in doctors and nurses to explain what went wrong to the jury.” Nowadays, there can be multiple expert witnesses on both sides, adding to the complexity and costs of trying a case.
Today, Goldfarb’s practice is about 40 percent medical malpractice cases, with a variety of other cases making up the balance. For example, Goldfarb in December obtained an $8.8 million verdict for the family of a mother killed in a 2008 accident. The father, who was driving the car, was seriously injured, and their two young children were not in the vehicle.
“We established that the 17-year-old driver of the other car was texting at the same time he was speeding down Bird Road,” Goldfarb says. “His father had given him the keys to a new Subaru, and he smashed into my client’s car, never braking or slowing down.” There are many things that can distract a driver, but texting is clearly an extremely serious problem. In April, Goldfarb began the second phase of the case: a trial against the driver’s father for comparative negligence and punitive damages.
“A tragedy like this affects the entire family,” Goldfarb says. “It is a myth that capping damages will somehow affect insurance rates. To achieve justice, damages should not be limited to just the person who is injured or dead. We have to allow a jury to decide what’s fair based on the facts of the case.”
Through the years, Goldfarb’s trial skills have been widely recognized by his peers. He is a founding member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and a member of the Million Dollar Advocates, Florida Justice Association and The Association of Trial Lawyers of America. He received the “Trial Lawyers Care Volunteer Award” representing victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the EAGLE Legion Award from the Florida Justice Academy in 2009. In addition, he has lectured on a variety of topics like “Opening Statements” and “Jury Selection.”
Outside the courtroom, Goldfarb stays in close touch with his four adult children and two grandchildren. His son Michael will be graduating from St. Thomas University School of Law in May and plans to join the firm. “That’s on the horizon and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Goldfarb says.
In the community, Goldfarb participates in a variety of charities, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters Foundation, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the South Dade Jewish Community Center. He is an active sponsor of Court Care, which provides a safe place for children in the middle of divorce or domestic violence cases. In the past, he served as a Little League baseball coach, a youth basketball league coach, a commissioner for youth basketball programs, and sponsored numerous high school athletics programs.
“Every Thanksgiving, our firm buys 250 turkeys for needy families,” he says. “We distribute them from the churches in South Miami-Dade, along with t-shirts, baseball caps and other gifts. It’s one of our firm’s important traditions.”
Looking ahead, Goldfarb plans to keep battling for his clients in and out of the courtroom. “This is not work for me,” he says. “I love helping people and being able to change someone’s life for the better.”
South Florida Legal Guide Midyear 2012 Edition
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