“We are the defenders,” says Jerry Hamilton, a founder and managing partner of the international defense firm Hamilton Miller & Birthisel, LLP based in Miami. “We are the defenders of the American dream – defending those entrepreneurs, who through sweat and hard work built businesses that provide for families who now face the challenges of litigation.”
“When a case against our client has merit, our clients do the right thing. When it doesn’t, they come to us, their last line of defense against a lawsuit. We try the cases and we win. Justice may be blind but she sees it our way at least 95 percent of the time,” says Hamilton, citing the firm’s win ratio at trial.
The firm’s passion for defense stems from the fact that its founding partners have lived that American dream. The firm was founded in 2006 with five lawyers. Today, Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel employs 37 lawyers with plans to hire three more by the end of the year and to expand to 60 lawyers in 2015. Hamilton says, “It’s exciting and gratifying to be building this firm with two of the best attorneys I have ever worked with. Jennifer Miller and Chip Birthisel practice with integrity and a dedication to defending their clients that is only matched by their technical knowledge.”
“We have an image on our website of three kids dressed as super heroes, standing together as a team. That’s Chip Birthisel, Jennifer Miller and me. As corny as it sounds, we want to be our clients’ super heroes; we want to right the wrongs when they have unjust claims made against them that threaten their livelihood. That passion and drive unites us.”
The firm rises to the defense of businesses in many different areas, such as wrongful death and personal injury claims, admiralty and maritime claims, hospitality claims, insurance and coverage claims, auto/trucking matters, employment claims, property and casualty matters, medical and professional malpractice, and product liability claims to name a few.
Founding partner Jennifer Quildon Miller is the managing partner of the firm’s Ft. Lauderdale and U.S. Virgin Island satellite offices. Hamilton says, “Jennifer Miller is one of the best attorneys I know. She knew she wanted to be a lawyer from the age of eight and when she began her legal career working with me as a law clerk, I knew even then that she would run her own law firm one day. When she started clerking, she would get to work at the crack of dawn and stay until the last partner left. She’s used that drive and work ethic to become a determined defender of every client she represents.”
Chip Birthisel has been a phenomenal and skilled trial lawyer for over 25 years, Hamilton says. “From starting out as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard to being a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in the aviation and admiralty section, to founding the Tampa office of Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel, his rise in this field has been something to behold. He is not just my law partner; he’s a trusted ally and sounding board. Whether we are discussing firm management or case strategy, we make one another better lawyers and better business people.
Success Through Diversity Hamilton says, “We win cases in part because of our diversity. We know that juries everywhere are comprised of people of different races and backgrounds. Good trial lawyers know that life experiences influence perceptions and that others have had different experiences. We want the benefit of those experiences in shaping our arguments. We also know that diversity in our trial teams gives us a real advantage in communicating with diverse jurors – one of the keys to winning cases, which is what our clients hire us to do. We have the benefit of diversity, gender and ethnic, from the top down in our firm which we believe is unmatched in Florida.”
Seven of the firm’s 15 partners are minorities and five are women. Hamilton Miller & Birthisel is certified as a minority business enterprise by the South Florida Minority Business Development Council, is a member of the National Association of Women and Minority Owned Law Firms, and was ranked third on the Daily Business Review’s list of Florida’s Most Diverse Law Firms.
“When you look at a jurisdiction like Miami, you see a predominantly Hispanic and Caribbean population, people hailing from Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Central and South America. Our firm is a reflection of the amazing, vibrant melting pot we all call home. A lot of firms simply don’t have that and they just don’t get how powerful those diverse perspectives can be. We talk the talk and walk the walk.”
He classifies the culture of the firm as very easygoing and entrepreneurial, with a free-flow of ideas among all employees. “We’re a youthful firm. The culture is very dynamic and our lawyers are here for the long-run.”
The partners encourage long-term commitment and loyalty – mentoring the young lawyers and teaching them how to come up through the ranks. Many associates have been with the firm since graduating from law school and are now partners in the firm.
The Defenders Hamilton cites a couple of recent victories as evidence of the firm’s commitment to defending the American dream.
A guest of the Ritz-Carlton in Florida had a heart attack while running on the hotel’s treadmill. The guest claimed that the Ritz- Carlton didn’t act appropriately in getting him the necessary care in adequate time. The firm established that their client acted appropriately and met their duty to their guests. The case was won in the federal trial court and the appellate court affirmed the decision. A complete victory for the Ritz-Carlton.
The firm also obtained a complete defense verdict following a wrongful death trial in Manatee County. A jet-ski with a history of engine problems lost power beside a moored tug and barge that was permissibly tied to a dock in broad daylight on 4th of July weekend. The riders grabbed hold of the tug’s tire fenders. The jetski then flipped over and one of the passengers drowned. During trial, the main issue was whether the defendants violated certain federal regulatory codes. Chip Birthisel successfully argued the regulations were not applicable under the circumstances and at the conclusion of trial and after two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a complete defense verdict.
Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel also won a complete defense verdict for St. Johns Shipping Co., Inc. and Starr Indemnity & Liability Company in a two week trial in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. Their insured employee, Diego Hernandez was driving a tractor trailer hauling a 66-foot metal beam. In the middle of a left hand turn, the beam collided with a tour bus grievously injuring multiple passengers. The plaintiff Ramirez claimed that the accident was the fault of Hernandez, but lead trial counsel, Jerry Hamilton, was able to prove otherwise. Through cross-examination of fact witnesses, police officers and plaintiff ’s biomechanical and medical experts, Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel was able to vindicate the wrongs against their client. Not only did Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel secure a complete defense verdict, but they obtained a significant judgment against the plaintiff on a successful cross claim. The firm also obtained a judgment for all attorneys’ fees and costs from the plaintiff.
“One of the factors in our firm’s success is that Jennifer Miller, Chip Birthisel, and I share the same drive and the same work ethic,” Hamilton says. “When you and your partners agree that the firm will be completely client driven and that good enough will never be good enough, there is never a question of what the priorities are and where we are headed. As it says on our website ‘It is whether you win or lose! Our clients entrust their businesses to us and it is that trust which fuels the passion of our defense.’”