Nov. 9, 2017 – TIKD, an innovative technology company transforming how people handle traffic tickets, today sued The Florida Bar and a law firm in federal court for conspiring to restrain trade in the market for legal services. In its lawsuit, TIKD charges that The Florida Bar, which licenses attorneys and enforces their legal monopoly on legal services, is conspiring with a private ticket defense law firm to drive TIKD out of business.
“The Bar appears to be a willing participant in reducing competition, limiting consumer choice, and denying consumers access to affordable and convenient legal help,” said Chris Riley, founder and CEO of TIKD. “All TIKD wants is a level playing field to compete, but The Florida Bar and The Ticket Clinic are preventing that. TIKD is good for drivers, good for lawyers, and is operating within the rules defined by law. We hope the Bar will come to its senses, end its ‘investigation,’ and let TIKD operate without interference. But if not, this is an important fight and we look forward to presenting our case to a jury.”
Traffic citations are common in America. More than one in five registered drivers will receive a ticket each year, with speeding being the most common violation. Only five percent of tickets are challenged in Court. The national average ticket fine amount is more than $150, nearly all of the monthly discretionary income of 60 percent of U.S. households. Unable to meet the debt obligation and placing drivers at odds with a system in which poverty is criminalized, unpaid traffic tickets result in suspended drivers licenses in 43 states and the District of Columbia. A simple unpaid traffic ticket can place drivers in a debt spiral accumulating late charges, license suspension, and even jail time.*
TIKD, which has served more than 5,000 Floridians since it launched there in February 2017, offers drivers financial protection from traffic fines with ticket defense provided by independent lawyers. For a one-time charge that is always less than the face amount of a ticket, TIKD provides drivers access to a private attorney and guarantees they will pay no more money for fines, costs or other fees. If the ticket is not dismissed, TIKD pays any fines imposed, and if the driver gets “points,” TIKD provides a full refund. The lawyers do the lawyering; TIKD helps drivers avoid the hassle, distraction and embarrassment of dealing with the ticket and provides a financial guarantee and administrative convenience.
TIKD’s innovative service has drawn the ire of a competitor, The Ticket Clinic, which also provides speeding ticket defense. The Ticket Clinic’s attorneys complained to The Florida Bar, which began “investigating” TIKD for “the unauthorized practice of law” in January 2017, even before its official launch. Ten months later, the Bar’s “investigation” is still going on, with no end in sight. In the meantime, The Ticket Clinic’s lawyers have filed grievances against every lawyer who has represented a TIKD customer, threatening to have them disbarred. The Florida Bar has abetted this anti-competitive conduct by dragging out its “investigation,” secretly issuing an unauthorized and incorrect “opinion” that suggests TIKD is violating Florida law, and refusing to dispel claims that The Bar has “decided” TIKD’s business is illegal – even though the Bar has no authority to make such a decision.
TIKD has repeatedly tried to meet with The Florida Bar to explain that its service is perfectly legal and is good for both consumers and lawyers. To date, The Bar has shut TIKD out. TIKD has been forced to file the lawsuit to stop the illegal and anti-competitive actions.
“TIKD is challenging the legal profession, which has an unfortunate history of putting the interests of its members ahead of the interests of consumers,” said TIKD’s lead attorney Ramón Abadin, himself a recent past president of The Florida Bar. “The Florida Bar has an obligation to help make legal services accessible and affordable to everyone, but its treatment of TIKD is reducing access, not increasing it. We had to file this lawsuit because The Bar has refused to engage in meaningful dialogue with TIKD.” Abadin noted the lawsuit is filed on behalf of TIKD, but it is also for consumers and companies that are trying to modernize the delivery of legal services.
“We are using technology to make it easier and cheaper for drivers to handle their traffic tickets right from their phones and computers,” said Robert Garvy, TIKD’s chairman. “We are providing a superior service and are working with local lawyers who are already handling traffic cases for clients who walk into their offices.”
State bar associations are no longer immune from antitrust lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that professional associations that regulate their own monopolies can be made to pay treble damages under the Sherman Antitrust Act, just like any other person or company that monopolizes a market. LegalZoom sued The North Carolina State Bar in 2016 for $10.5 million for violating the Sherman Act. That bar association quickly stopped interfering in LegalZoom’s sale of legal plans in North Carolina. TIKD’s legal team includes Pete Kennedy, the architect of LegalZoom’s lawsuit against The North Carolina State Bar, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, and another former Florida Bar president. Greenberg Traurig’s Tim Kolaya helps lead TIKD’s national efforts, but neither he nor the firm is involved in the litigation against The Florida Bar.
“When I launched TIKD, my goal was to help people handle their traffic tickets and save time and money,” said Riley. “It is ironic that TIKD – like many other tech startups – is now wasting time and money defending itself against the very legal profession it seeks to support with its technology platform.”