MIAMI (CN) - A cellphone app that has been shaking up Florida’s traffic-ticket-fighting market this year claims in a federal complaint that the state bar association is conspiring with a more established competitor to shut it down.
Tikd Services is represented in the Nov. 8 suit by Sedgwick attorney Ramon Abadin and by Peter Kennedy with the firm Graves Dougherty in Austin, Texas.
Since its launch in February, Tikd says more than 5,000 Floridians have made use of its innovative service: paying a fixed fee on the app to have an independent attorney fight their ticket, with the guarantee from Tikd that they will have to pay no more money, regardless of the case’s outcome.
“Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes innovation and competition,” the complaint states. “From the moment Tikd received publicity, it has been subject to a coordinated attack by the Florida Bar and a competitor in an effort to drive it out of business and to prevent lawyers from representing Tikd’s customers.”
In addition to the Florida Bar and four of its officers, Tikd named its competitor, Gold and Associates dba The Ticket Clinic, as a defendant to the suit, along with five Ticket Clinic attorneys.
Alleging violations of the federal Sherman Act and of state law, Tikd claims to have suffered millions in damages because of the “illegal and unreasonable anticompetitive and monopolistic conduct” it claims to have faced.
“Defendants’ and their co-conspirators’ illegal conduct has prevented plaintiff from serving customers by coercing attorneys to cease working with Tikd, and it has deprived Florida consumers access to convenient, low-cost, and efficient legal services,” the complaint states.
Ticket Clinic CEO Bob Gold shot back in an interview about the lawsuit that Tikd carries all the trappings of a pyramid scheme.
“We are confident that the lawsuit has absolutely no merit,” Gold said. “Obviously [Tikd CEO] Chris Riley is acting out of desperation, hoping to stop the inevitable injunction that we expect to come down from the bar at any moment.”
Tikd argues on the other hand that its challenge is a natural extension of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission.
Indeed, the complaint says, the Florida Bar lobbied unsuccessfully as a friend-of-the-court in Dental Examiners to secure antitrust immunity for state agencies controlled by individuals who participate in the occupation the agency regulates.
Tikd notes that some state bar associations such as that of Washington state and North Carolina have taken steps since Dental Examiners to limit their antitrust exposure.
Nevertheless, the complaint states, “the Florida Bar made no changes to its structure, supervision, or processes after the Dental Examiners case was decided.”
Tikd claims that its successful launch prompted persecution by the state bar, which started an investigation of what the complaint calls the “baseless assertion that Tikd was practicing law in Florida.”
The bar’s insinuation that Tikd’s services are illegal allegedly has given some lawyers the false impression that working with Tikd would violate ethics rules.
Lawyers who do work with Tikd meanwhile have found themselves threatened by Ticket Clinic lawyers and brought to the state bar on ethics complaints, Tikd says.
Gold of the Ticket Clinic said this is for good reason.
“Under bar rules, any lawyer who accepts a case from a referral that violates bar advertising rules, which would be any lawyer who takes a Tikd case, may be disciplined as if they themselves violated that rule,” Gold claimed in an interview.
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