By Directing Cy Pres Award to Foundation, Attorneys Join Legacy for Justice

Photo of Edward H. Zebersky, Esq.
Edward H. Zebersky, Esq.

Edward Zebersky believes lawyers have a responsibility to give back, a mantra he has held since starting his own practice in Broward County in 1992.

Zebersky, of Zebersky & Payne; Valorie Chavin, of Chavin Mitchell Shmuely; and Florida Bar President Michael J. Higer, of Berger Singerman, recently represented the claimants in a class action law suit that resulted in a settlement of more than $1 million.

Class members were sent checks of about 90 cents, but many of those checks were never cashed – allowing the undistributed funds to become a cy pres award of more than $70,000 to the Foundation.

“The lawyers felt it was important that the money go to an organization that benefits all Floridians,” Zebersky said, “especially those who need legal help.”

The term cy pres comes from the French, “cy près comme possible,” meaning “as near as possible.” In class action cases where full restitution to all injured parties is impossible or infeasible, a court can approve a charitable donation out of unclaimed class action funds.

Photo of Foundation president-elect Juliette Lippman and executive director Bruce Blackwell receive a $70,000 cy pres award from a settlement won by attorneys Edward H. Zebersky, Valorie Chavin, and Michael Higer.
Foundation president-elect Juliette Lippman and executive director Bruce Blackwell receive a $70,000 cy pres award from a settlement won by attorneys Edward H. Zebersky, Valorie Chavin, and Michael Higer.

Thanks to the lawyers’ request to donate the funds and the approval of the judge in the case, the Foundation will be able to supplement its grants in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The lawsuit alleged that Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company developed internal procedures for their post-claims underwriting that used innocent mistakes to deny homeowners’ claims.

As an active lobbyist for consumer issues, Zebersky feels corporations have adequate representation in legal matters. But the same is not true for every citizen.

“The only way to level the playing field is for everyone to have adequate representation,” he said.

Designating a cy pres award to The Florida Bar Foundation is one way to increase that representation, and thereby access to justice.

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