“I like to consider myself my clients’ insurer,” says Jerry Hamilton in his easygoing, distinctive Jamaican accent. “Many of my clients, large and small, are concerned about litigation and rightly so – the fees, the costs, the impact on their employees, how it effects their brand and bringing litigation to an expeditious end. My job, in fact, my passion is to ensure that my clients have a lawyer who understands their needs, a lawyer who zealously meets and exceeds their expectations, and who comes to their defense. I would like to think I am their peace of mind, that I am their insurer.”
Hamilton is the founding and managing partner of Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel, LLP, an international defense firm with offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Jamaica. The firm rises to the defense of businesses on multiple fronts. Their trial practice ranges from defending wrongful death and personal injury claims, hospitality claims, insurance and coverage claims, admiralty and maritime claims, auto and trucking matters, employment claims, property and casualty matters, medical and professional malpractice, and product liability claims, to name a few.
Practicing law for 22 years, Hamilton has an impressive record as a defense trial lawyer and focuses on results. “Lawyers are afraid to guarantee anything. We are taught from our early days of law school and in the infancy of our law practice that there are never any guarantees. Lawyers are trained to say it depends. I simply don’t subscribe to that approach,” he says.
“I get the fact that you never know if you will win or lose any case, but you can guarantee a few things to your clients. You can assure them that you will handle the case with the importance it deserves, you can guarantee you will be responsive and communicate effectively, and you can guarantee that your efforts to manage costs will lead them to the right result. It is really a simple formula: listening to your client and then putting your client’s needs at the top of the list.”
Hamilton says, “It was an honor to receive an award from the largest insurance company in the world as one of their top 10 insurance defense lawyers, not because it was prestigious, but because it was a recognition that our firm understood the industry and our clients’ needs, goals and expectations.”
Hard Work and an Unorthodox Approach “On occasion my opponents think I’m aggressive because I push cases toward an early resolution or to trial as quickly as possible. But it isn’t aggression, it’s simply that there is nothing to gain by delay. In my experience, cases don’t improve over time. I want to get in and out of the case as quickly as possible and our clients share that goal. If it means pushing the plaintiff ’s lawyer harder for a better result that is what I do,” Hamilton says.
Not shying away from a challenge is another ingredient in Hamilton’s winning formula for his clients. Hamilton is proud of his firm’s 95 percent trial win ratio. He credits his victories to a team effort and says that he works with some of the best lawyers he knows. “My partners are my friends and my trusted colleagues. They are a diverse group – with diverse opinions – which I truly believe strengthens our firm and allows us to explain our client’s case to any jury.”
He also credits his trial success to an unorthodox approach to cases. “As a defense lawyer, one can never hide behind the burden of proof. Juries simply don’t get it. The defense has to prove its case without exception. You must tell the jury that even though it is not your burden to prove, you will prove each and every element of your case. Once you make that promise then you must systematically make good on it and prove each and every element of your case. If you do that, you will most likely come away with a verdict in your favor. Simply put, you cannot stand by idly waiting to see if plaintiff ’s counsel will attempt to prove its case. You must prosecute your case, not only defend it,” Hamilton says.
Hamilton recently won a two-week federal jury trial representing a stevedoring company through its insurer. The company’s insured employee, Hamilton’s client, was driving a tractor trailer, hauling a 66-foot metal beam. In the middle of an intersection during a left hand turn, there was a collision with a tour bus filled with passengers, ripping through the fiberglass exterior of the bus and seriously injuring several passengers. The plaintiff, the tour bus driver, accused Hamilton’s client of causing the accident and sued for his own injuries along with the passengers. Hamilton and his trial team, through vigorous cross-examination of fact witnesses, police officers, and the plaintiff ’s biomechanical and medical experts, were able to prove his client was not at fault. Hamilton and his team secured a complete defense verdict and obtained a $1.4 million verdict against the plaintiff on their cross-claim. They also secured a judgment for all attorneys’ fees and defense costs from the plaintiff.
On a Personal Note Hamilton says the law is in his blood. His grandfather was a lawyer and his father is a lawyer. He was first attracted to the law listening to stories from his father about his work. “It was a passion a father passed on to his son.”
Hamilton credits his success in higher education and life to his mother, Pearline, a registered nurse. “When I left Jamaica for Florida, at the age of 16, she made the sacrifice of leaving home and staying with me in Florida to ensure that my dream of becoming a lawyer was realized. She worked two jobs, day and night, and kept me on the path toward success. To her, my education was paramount and honor and integrity were utmost priorities instilled from an early age. Her sacrifice and wisdom is why I am where I am today,” he says.
Hamilton has been married to his wife Michelle for 12 years. They have two children: Nicholas, 9, and Ally, 7. He is hopeful both will follow in his footsteps and join him in the practice. He is active in the community and has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Dade County Bar Association, the Broward Community College Foundation and the Urban League of Broward County. He is also a founding member and past president of the Caribbean Bar Association. Currently, he has been nominated to the Judicial Nominating Committee.
Hamilton is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other children’s charities. “Any group that focuses on children will have my heart, time and energy. Being able to put our firm’s resources into projects that help children is one of the greatest benefits of managing the firm,” he says.
He enjoys reading self-development books in his spare time. “I think it’s important that we learn something every day,” he says. When not practicing law, Hamilton loves to play golf. But he says that “my true passion is practicing law, trying cases and insuring my clients’ peace of mind.”