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727.327.2258

Saint Petersburg, FL

423.708.4666

Chattanooga, TN

954.315.3823

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Stuart J. Freeman

Partner

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 4,600 of Florida’s approximately 100,000 lawyers are board certified and, of those, only 1,050 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 2017, 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

In 2017,  Stuart was awarded lifetime membership in America’s Top 100 Attorneys. Membership is limited to the Top 100 professionals from each state in each category of practice who best exhibit excellence and the highest ethical standards in their respective professions. With these high standards, less than 0.5 % of professionals in the United States are selected for membership as one of America’s Top 100 in their profession. Also in 2017 Stuart was certified as a member of The Lawyers of Distinction in the category of civil litigation. The Lawyers of Distinction is recognized as the fastest growing community of distinguished lawyers in the United States.   Membership is limited to the top 10% of attorneys in the United States.  Members are accepted based upon objective evaluation of an attorney’s qualifications, license, reputation, experience, and disciplinary history.

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

Progressive Express Insurance Company v. Gomes Holdings, LLC, Charlotte County Circuit Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action and obtained a Final Summary Judgment, in 2016, on a coverage issue under a Commercial Auto Policy, involving  the insureds’ failure to attend Examinations Under Oath. Click here to view the Order and Final Judgment.
Diocese of St. Petersburg v. Arch Insurance Company, 188 F.Supp.3d 1289 (M.D. Fla. 2016). United States District Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory Judgment Action on behalf of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and its insurer, Catholic Mutual, seeking additional insured status under a policy of insurance issued by Arch Insurance Company to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Inc. The District Court, in 2016,  entered Final Summary Judgment for the Diocese determining that the Diocese was an additional insured and was entitled to indemnity and a defense. Click here to view the Order.Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Hansen, Burkard and Progressive American Insurance Company, Martin County Circuit Court. Martin County Circuit Court. Stuart filed a Declaratory judgment Action and obtained  Final Summary Judgment, in 2016, on a coverage issue under an Umbrella Policy, involving a business use exclusion. Click here to view the Final Judgment.. 
❏ Garcia v. Progressive American Insurance Company, Hendry County Circuit Court. In this wrongful death case wherein the decedent was ejected and killed,  Progressive was sued for negligent destruction of evidence for disposing of the 2004 Ford Explorer in which the decedent was a passenger. It was alleged that this prevented the plaintiff from being able to bring a products liability case against Ford Motor Company for an improperly functioning seatbelt. The court, in 2015, finding the action to be premature, dismissed the case against Progressive. Click here to review the Order.Litzky v. Progressive Select Insurance Company, Indian River Circuit Court. Plaintiff, in this underinsured motorist case, filed a motion to amend her complaint to add a “bad faith” count against Progressive. The court, in 2015,  determining that the cause of action had not accrued, denied the motion to amend. Click here to review the Order.Mikhail v. Progressive Express Insurance Company, Pasco County Circuit Court.  Stuart filed a counterclaim seeking a Declaratory Judgment and obtained a Final Summary Judgment, in 2014,  on a coverage issue involving an officer of a corporation which was the named insured  under Commercial Auto Policy, who was seeking underinsured motorist benefits when he was injured while a passenger in a motor vehicle that was not listed on the policy. Click here to view the Final Summary Judgment.  Click here to view the Order Granting the Motion for Summary Judgment.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 involving an insured’s failure to attend an Examination Under Oath.  Click here to view the Order and Final Judgement.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 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 involving an insured adding a motor vehicle to the commercial auto liability policy after the accident. Click here to view the Judgment.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 involving an excluded driver under an umbrella policy. Click here to view the Opinion.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.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 based on the court’s failure to consult with counsel after the jury had a question during deliberations. The effect of the decision was to reinstate the jury verdict for the defendants in this false imprisonment case. Click here to view the Opinion.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. 
❏ 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. 
❏ 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. 
❏ 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. 
❏ 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. 
❏ 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.

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

Personal

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.

Areas of Practice:

  • Personal Injury – Defense
  • Product Liability – Defense
  • Premises Liability – Defense
  • Construction Defect – Defense
  • Coverage and Bad Faith – Defense
  • Appellate Practice

Education:

Law School:
Stetson University College of Law

College:
Pennsylvania State University

Office:
2553 First Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, Florida
33713

727-327-2258 (o)
727-328-1340 (f)

Email: sjfreeman@brasfieldlaw.net

Bar Admissions:
Florida 

Territory of Practice:

State of Florida

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