Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stuart J. Freeman


Since 1992, Stuart has been Board Certified as a Civil Trial Lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by the Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for Certification by the Supreme Court of Florida. Only 4,400 of Florida's approximately 94,000 lawyers are board certified and only approximately 1,080 of those are certified as Civil Trial Lawyers

In  1994, he became  certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of  Trial  Advocacy (NBTA). NBTA certification is a credential above and beyond a   license to practice law. Lawyers certified by the NBTA possess an  enhanced  level of skill and expertise in trial advocacy and have  demonstrated integrity  and dedication to the interests of their  clients. For the past fifteen years, Stuart  has been awarded an AV® Preeminent  TM rating*, the highest possible peer rating for  both legal ability and ethical  standards, by Martindale-Hubbell, a nationally  recognized  and authoritative source on the legal   profession.

Stuart is also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). His member status is that of an "advocate" which status is based on the number of jury trials he has tried. Membership in ABOTA is extended by invitation only in recognition of an individual's high personal character, honorable reputation and proficiency as a trial lawyer. Members generally are considered the nation's elite litigation practitioners, and must meet standards for number of years of practice and number of cases tried to conclusion.

In 2013, Stuart was invited to become a fellow of The American College of Board Certified Attorneys. The American College of Board Certified Attorneys is a professional organization for attorneys who have been Board Certified by a recognized accrediting organization. 

Stuart was again selected, in 2014, to be a Florida Super Lawyer by his  peers in the  legal community. Super Lawyers are nominated annually in  each participating  state or region by all active lawyers who have been  in practice for five years  or more. These lawyers were invited to  select the best lawyers they've  personally observed in action. Only  five percent of the state's attorneys were  selected as Florida Super Lawyers this year. Stuart has been awarded this  distinction every year  since 2007. In 2014, Stuart was again honored to be named to the list of the  top lawyers in the Tampa Bay area by Tampa Bay Magazine having been previously named in 2010 and 2013.

From 2007 to 2014,  Stuart was  a member of the adjunct faculty of Stetson University College of Law where he taught Trial Advocacy. Stetson has been consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top law schools in the nation for Trial Advocacy.

Stuart is a member of the Defense Research Institute, Inc., with an additional membership in the Trial Tactics Committee. He is also a member of the Florida Bar, with additional memberships in the Trial Lawyers and Appellate Practice and Advocacy sections and a member of the American Bar Association with an additional membership in the Tort/Insurance section. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Florida, the United States District Courts for Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the United States Court of Federal Claims, Washington, D.C.

Stuart and his firm are members of the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM), a nonpartisan alliance of law firms, insurance companies, and corporations whose goals include the promoting and furthering of the highest standards of litigation management in pursuit of client defense. Attorneys and law firms are nominated to the CLM based upon reputation and may become members by invitation only. Stuart serves in the CLM on the Insurance Coverage Litigation committee.

Before joining this firm, Stuart was an Assistant Public Defender in St. Petersburg, Florida, during which time he tried in excess of 50 felony jury trials. Stuart then joined Nationwide Insurance Company as Staff Counsel serving the Tampa Bay Area.

Since joining the firm he has been actively representing our clients through trial in both State and Federal Courts. Stuart has handled a wide variety of cases including serious personal injury and wrongful death, premises liability, construction defects involving multi-million dollar projects, insurance coverage, bad faith, toxic torts including silica and asbestos, condominium liability, and products liability cases. During that time, Stuart has also personally represented the interests of our clients by handling their cases in the Florida appellate courts.

Stuart is well respected in the legal profession by both his colleagues as well as by his adversaries. If you retain him, you can be assured that your case will be handled aggressively, efficiently,  and in a most professional manner.

Representative Cases

Allstate Indemnity Company v. Wise , 818 So.2d 524 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001), rev. denied, 817 So.2d 844 (Fla. 2002) In this case Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action  asking the court to  declare that there was no coverage under an automobile insurance policy which case  involved the "intentional acts" exclusion and its application to a driver fleeing from the police.

Furman's Inc. v. Cameron, 816 So.2d 1265 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002)  This was a pre-trial discovery case based on the "work product privilege" and its application to statements obtained by an insurance company

Essex Builders Group, Inc. v. Amerisure Ins. Co., 485 F. Supp. 2d 1302 (M.D. Fla 2006) United States District Court. In this case, Stuart represented PGIC in a construction defect coverage case which involved issues of "trigger of coverage" and "consequential damages" under a Comprehensive General Liability policy.

Graziano v. Bollea, Pinellas County Circuit Court. Stuart and his partner Scott Brasfield represented Nicholas Bollea, also known as Nick Hogan, son of famed wrestler, Hulk Hogan, in a lawsuit resulting from an automobile accident wherein his passenger, John Graziano, who was not wearing his seat belt, suffered a serious brain injury. Stuart obtained favorable rulings from the trial court limiting media access to the depositions and determining that Nicholas Bollea, a minor, had no legal duty to require that his adult passenger, John Graziano, wear a seat belt. Click here to view the Order. The case was settled shortly before trial was set to begin in March 2010. After settlement of the personal injury case, Stuart obtained a court order preventing release to the public and the media of the audio recordings of conversations made at the Pinellas County Jail between Nick and his family during Nick's incarceration, the court determining that the recordings were not public records.

Quinnell v. Progressive Express Insurance Company, Hillsborough County Circuit Court. In this insurance "Bad Faith" case, Stuart, in 2011, obtained a Final Summary Judgment, wherein the trial court determined that Progressive's failure to enter into a "Cunningham Agreement" could not be used as evidence of bad faith. The summary judgment was affirmed, without opinion, by the Second District Court of Appeal. Click here to view the Order and Final Summary Judgment.

Progressive American Insurance Company v.  United States of America, 913 F.Supp.2d 1318 (M.D. Fla. 2012). United States District Court. In this case, Stuart  filed a subrogation case against the United States under the Federal Torts Claim Act. This case involved issues of the accrual date of a cause of action and equitable  tolling.

Phelps v. Johnson, 113 So.3d 924 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). Stuart successfully represented the Appellants before the Second District Court of Appeal which, by written opinion, reversed the order of the trial court that had granted a new trial. The effect of the decision was to reinstate the jury verdict for the defendants in this false imprisonment case.

Forlong v. Cochran, Collier County Circuit Court. In this maritime case, the circuit court, in 2013,  granted Stuart’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings determining that claims for loss of consortium are not permitted under General Maritime Law. Click here to view the Order. Click here to view the Order.

Progressive American Insurance Company v. Steele, 15 F.Supp.3d 1240 (M.D. Fla. 2014). United States District Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action and obtained a Final Summary Judgment on a coverage issue under an umbrella policy. Click here to view the Order.

Progressive Express Insurance Company v. Arellano, Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action and obtained a Final Summary Judgment, in 2014,  on a coverage issue under a commercial auto liability policy. Click here to view the Judgment.

Love’s Window & Door Installation, Inc. v. Acousti Engineering Co. Etc., et.al., 147 So.3d 1064 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). In this complex construction defect case, Stuart obtained a favorable  opinion from the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirming an order of the trial court that had denied a  transfer of venue which had been sought based upon a forum selection clause in a  subcontract.   Click here to see the Opinion.

Progressive Select Insurance Company v. Ramos, Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action and obtained a Final Summary Judgment, in 2014, on a coverage issue under a personal auto liability policy.  Click here to view the Order and Final Judgement.

Court Admissions

Florida Supreme Court
U.S. District Court for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Federal Claims


Stuart and Carol have two adult children. They enjoy spending time in their cabin in the mountains of Western North Carolina. They also enjoy foreign travel, having visited many counties throughout the world.

Position: Partner 

College: Pennsylvania State University

Law School: Stetson University College of Law

Areas of Practice:

Personal Injury - Defense

Product Liability - Defense

Premises Liability - Defense

Construction Defect - Defense

Bad Faith - Defense

Appellate Practice