Michael L. ForteMichael Forte practices in the areas of retail and hospitality, government and product liability. He also has significant experience litigating construction defect cases, casualty cases and health care matters.

Michael's retail and hospitality clients include national retailers and property management companies. He and his team were recognized in 2012 as Sears Holdings Corporation's "Go-To Firm for Litigation" in a survey conducted by American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel magazines. He has first-chaired trials in Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Polk Counties.

On many occasions, Michael has prevailed on summary judgment, obviating the need for a trial. One such case was Hall v. Sunjoy Industries Group, Inc., 764 F. Supp. 2d 1297 (M.D. Fla. 2011), which involved injuries from an allegedly defective product displayed within a retail store. The Hall opinion has been cited by more than 70 other courts and mentioned in more than 20 secondary sources.

Michael has defended law enforcement officers in both federal and state courts in cases involving 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 allegations and state law claims.  In Henry v. Livingston, 2014 WL 5823229 (M.D. Fla. 2014), Michael defended two police officers in an issue of first impression within the Eleventh Circuit, which is whether the doctrine espoused in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) applies to minor plaintiffs. The court agreed with Michael that the Heck doctrine applies to minors, and went on to dismiss the false arrest claims against the officers on that basis. Michael has lectured on this and other law enforcement issues, and his articles have been published in Florida Police Chief magazine. 

In his construction law practice, Michael represents contractors and subcontractors sued for commercial and residential construction projects. He has defended against claims of alleged construction defects, as well as related mold claims resulting from water intrusion.

His product liability work includes the defense of automobile and aviation manufacturers, as well as the defense of automobile and boat manufacturers in breach of warranty matters. In his health care matters, he has assisted managed care providers in disputes with physician practice groups. Some of his written work appears in national publications such as the National Law Journal.

  • Education

    Stetson University, College of Law - J.D., cum laude, 2002
    • Notes and Comments Editor, Stetson Law Review 
    • Intern to the Honorable Magistrate Jenkins, Middle District of Florida
    • Stetson University Teaching Fellow
    • Stetson University Research Assistant
    • Elizabeth M. Leeman Award for best student article published in the Stetson Law Review, 2001-2002
    • First place in Stetson Law Review Write-On Competition for “Zadvydas v. Underwood: How to Ignore Substantive Due Process Rights in Two Easy Steps,” 2001
    University of Florida - B.A., English and Political Science, high honors, 1999
  • Honors

    • Named a "40 under 40 Up & Comer" by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, 2014
    • Florida Defense Lawyers Association TAQ Award, 2014
    • AV-Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
    • Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star, Personal Injury Defense-General, 2009-2017
  • Bar Admissions

    • Ohio (2008)
    • Florida (2002)
  • Court Admissions

    • U.S. District Courts of Florida (Middle)
    • U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit
  • Notable Cases

    • Dorman v. Mid-State Plumbing, Inc.,  >>
    • Chery v. Haines City  >>
    • Mason v. Peabody & Arnold, LLP  >>
    • Hall v. Kmart Corporation  >>
    • Thorne v. Temples  >>
    • Messing v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc.  >>
    • Austin v. Sears Home Improvement Products, Inc.  >>
    • Ciporkin v. Irwin Contracting, Inc. v. Mark 1 Contracting, Inc  >>
    • May v. Kmart  >>
  • Professional & Civic Activities

    • Risk Insurance Management Society, Executive Board Member
    • Florida Defense Lawyers Association, Trial Advocate Quarterly Editorial Board Member
    • Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association, Member
    • The Florida Bar
      • Florida Bar Journal Editorial Board Member
      • Thirteenth Circuit Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee A, Chairperson
      • Small Claims Rules Committee, Past Member
      • Trial Lawyers Section
    • Hillsborough County Bar Association
      • Professionalism and Ethics Committee, Past Member 
      • Trial Lawyers Section
  • Articles & Presentations

    • Co-Presenter, "Defense Strategies Giving You the Most Bang for Your Buck,"Claims Education Conference, May 2018, New Orleans
    • Co-Author, "Defense Strategies that Give You the Most Bang for Your Buck," Claims Education Conference, May 2018
    • Author, "Removal: An Important Defense Tool in U.S. Lawsuits against Canadians," Ontario Insurance Adjusters Association Journal, Without Prejudice, September 2017
    • Co-Author, "Punitive Damages: When Are They Available in Premises Liability Lawsuits?," Trial Advocate Quarterly, Vol. 33. No.1, Winter 2014
    • "Public Records and Sunshine Law," Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association, September 2014, Presenter
    • “Punitive Damages: When Are They Available in Premises Liability Lawsuits?” Trial Advocate Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1, Winter 2014, Co-Author
    • “Rodriguez v. Miami-Dade County: The Florida Supreme Court Clarifies Certiorari Review in Sovereign Immunity Cases," Florida Bar Journal, Vol. 88, No. 1, January 2014, Co-Author
    • “Admissibility of High-low Agreements in Multi-defendant Litigation,” Florida Bar Journal, Vol. 87, No. 1, November 2013, Author
    • "Must Treating Physicians Be Paid for Their Testimony?," Trial Advocate Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1, Fall 2013, Co-Author
    • “Requests for Admission: Establishing the Amount in Controversy in Personal Injury Lawsuits,” Trial Advocate Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer 2013, Author
    • "Res Ipsa Loquitur," Risk Insurance Management Society Seminar, August 2013, Presenter
    • “Insurance Claims from Apartment Complexes,” National Apartment Association Annual Government and Legal Symposium, August 2013, Presenter
    • “Out-of-State Incapacitated Plaintiffs: Are They Really ‘Parties’ for Purposes of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.380(d)?,” Trial Advocate Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2012, Author


  • Florida
  • Ohio
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