The ticket-fighting app Tikd and the Ticket Clinic law firm are back at each other’s throats — and this time, the Florida Bar is involved.
Tikd on Wednesday sued the bar and the Ticket Clinic for $11.4 million in federal court, alleging the two organizations are conspiring to drive the Coral Gables-based startup out of business. The Tikd app allows drivers with minor traffic tickets to upload a picture of the ticket for a fee lower than the designated fine. The company, founded by nonlawyers, contracts with attorneys to argue against the tickets in court.
The Florida Bar has been investigating whether Tikd’s business model involves the unlicensed practice of law, a representative confirmed earlier this year. Tikd alleges the “interminable” investigation has gone on for more than 10 months and is “scaring lawyers away” from the company.
Tikd alleges the Ticket Clinic has been making threatening calls to attorneys, saying they’ll be disbarred if they work with the startup.
“Tikd carefully designed its services to comply with Florida law,” according to the lawsuit. “Tikd provides the technology and price guarantee; independent Florida lawyers provide the legal services. By combining technology, data analysis, and a network of independent lawyers, Tikd has created an innovative and better way to make legal services available to the general public. … Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes innovation and competition.”
A bar representative declined to comment on the litigation. The bar confirmed a recommendation to file for an injunction against Tikd was approved by both a Miami-Dade committee and a statewide committee on the unlicensed practice of law. The recommendation is under review.
Former Florida Bar president and Sedgwick partner Ray Abadin filed the complaint, which names current Bar President Michael Higer and other bar leaders as defendants. Abadin called the situation “not awkward at all.”
“I have 100 percent belief that my client is right: that this is not the unauthorized practice of law, that the bar rules are restrictive in nature and are, in a sense, anti-competitive in nature,” Abadin said. “We’ve tried to talk to the bar and they are not cooperating in any way in trying to resolve this in a normal fashion. So we live in America, and these get resolved in court.”
Abadin’s co-counsel is Austin, Texas, attorney Peter Kennedy of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody. Kennedy is pursuing a number of antitrust cases against state bars, including a case against the North Carolina State Bar that ended in a $10.5 million settlement with LegalZoom.
Ticket Clinic attorney Louis Arslanian of Hollywood declined to comment. He represented the 30-year-old ticket defense firm in two state court lawsuits between the Ticket Clinic and Tikd earlier this year.
In those cases, Tikd accused the Ticket Clinic of threatening its partner attorneys, and the law firm alleged Tikd was misleading consumers and violating bar rules. The companies settled the lawsuits in August, agreeing not to file any litigation with “the same subject matter” for eight months or until the bar investigation wrapped up, whichever came first.
Abadin said ”the two things are not related,” as the new case focuses on allegations of anti-competitive behavior.
“There was an understanding that everybody would wait for the bar process to continue, but certain actions of the bar and the Ticket Clinic warranted us filing this lawsuit in this forum at this time,” he said.
Last month, the Ticket Clinic filed a motion in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging Tikd breached the state court settlement agreement by using the firm’s name as a “negative keyword” in Google AdWords advertisements.