Michael (Mike) Forte is a partner in the Tampa office of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell. A litigator who practices in the areas of retail and hospitality, government and product liability, Mike also has significant experience in construction defect and casualty cases. Here, he talks about his practice, his role as a mentor and how he spends his free time.
Mike, can you tell us how you became interested in practicing law?
I knew as a teenager I wanted to be an attorney. I have always enjoyed technical writing, which is an important part of my law practice. As an attorney, I enjoy developing case strategies that allow me to stay several steps ahead of my opponents.
Tell us how your practice has evolved from your early days as an attorney.
As a young associate, I cut my teeth on basic personal injury cases. As time went on, I was assigned the more serious cases, including wrongful death and severe burn claims. I have used my personal injury background as a platform for entering the law enforcement arena, defending police departments against personal injury lawsuits at first, and then lawsuits involving constitutional claims. I have developed that law enforcement practice further by assisting officers and departments with internal employment matters. At the same time, I have gained considerable experience in construction cases, and have litigated a multi-million dollar construction case to a defense verdict.
Can you tell us about an especially interesting case?
One of my serious personal injury cases has gained national attention. The plaintiff sat in a garden bistro chair in my client’s store, and the chair promptly collapsed. The plaintiff sued the store under multiple legal theories. We removed the case to federal court and then obtained a complete summary judgment. The court agreed with us that the plaintiff failed to show any defect in the chair, and that the plaintiff’s excessive weight was the most likely cause of the collapse. This case has been published in the federal reporter and cited by more than 30 other courts and secondary sources.
What advice can you offer to law students and newer lawyers?
In the practice of law, every detail matters. If you think something is easy, you probably are doing it wrong.
What do you do when you’re not in the office? Any hobbies?
I enjoy playing the drums. In the 1990s, I was the drummer for the alternative rock band The Pretzel Show. I am not in a band any longer, but I still enjoy playing once in a while. These days I am more interested in martial arts, and I am a black belt in Ninjutsu. I also take part in paintball combat simulations once every couple months or so. It’s great exercise.