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Law Firm of the Month, Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath
A Plaintiff’s Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Firm
By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Founded in 1985 by Lake Lytal and Joe Reiter, the firm specializes in cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and product liability. It focuses exclusively on helping injured victims and the families of the injured and deceased. The firm has been a strong advocate of safety, and – through the years of extensive product liability cases – has brought a substantial number of safety changes to several categories of manufacturing in the United States.
Lytal is a past president of the Florida Justice Association and was one of the first lawyers in the country to achieve certification as a civil trial advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He now specializes in medical malpractice litigation.
Previously a president of The Florida Bar Association, Reiter’s practice focuses in automobile accidents, product liability and medical malpractice. He’s a former chairman of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. Both men have a long history of leadership activities with a variety of professional organizations.
In January 2011, Lytal & Reiter merged with the personal injury firm of Smith, Ivey & Fronrath. Today, the firm and its partners – Lytal, Reiter, Kevin Smith, Scott Smith, Lance Ivey, Todd Fronrath, William “Bill” Williams and Lake H. “Trey” Lytal III, the senior Lytal’s son – are furthering the successful legacy of aggressive personal injury representation that began nearly 30 years ago.
“The merger in 2011 provided an incredible opportunity for both firms to join forces and pool resources to fight for justice for injured victims,” Scott Smith says. Smith works in a variety of areas including motor vehicle accidents, product liability and wrongful death; he is the current president of the 500-member Palm Beach County Justice Association, an organization of trial attorneys and paralegals representing plaintiffs in civil cases. “Myself, Lance Ivey, Todd Fonrath and Marci Fuentes Ball had all previously been at Lytal Reiter. In 2008, we left to establish our own firm and in late 2010 we began to discuss the merger of the two firms.
“When the merger occurred it was a perfect integration,” he continues. “There was immediate synergy between the two firms. We fit together like two proper Lego pieces. There was no down time at all. We could focus immediately because we all knew each other, we knew each other’s personalities, we knew each other’s case management systems, we knew everything, even down to how we filed our files. It was perfect synergy.”
We caught up with partner, Scott B. Smith in Detroit where he had just landed en route to depose several General Motors employees in a tragic rollover case. Like many of his contemporaries, the partner of the West Palm Beach civil litigation firm had no qualms hopping a flight to further his client’s case. The initiative and drive demonstrated by this firm’s attorneys has propelled it to the short list of top personal injury firms in the country.
FIGHTING FOR VICTIMS
With the additional resources afforded by the now three-year-old merger, the firm continues on the path of helping victims in some of the more complex personal injury and wrongful death cases in the country. Its legacy of success has allowed for the brainpower and financial resources needed to pursue cases against insurance companies, large corporations, large hospitals and very wealthy individuals. The firm has a broad reach, helping injured parties throughout Florida and other states and even as far across the country as Los Angeles, where several years ago it litigated a complex tire defect case. Currently, the firm is handling cases from Pensacola through the Florida Keys and in several other states. The firm’s attorneys and staff live by the philosophy that the firm’s clients are its most important asset and that successfully representing them when they require an advocate is why the firm exists.
The reach of its resources is one of the things that especially influenced the high-energy litigator Williams, who achieved his first $1 million settlement before the age of 30, to join the firm. “What I love about this firm is that it is able to provide me with the necessary resources – from financial resources to staff resources – to litigate a high volume of cases,” he says. “I travel a lot for depositions and don’t have to worry about things falling through the cracks while I am away.”
Williams, who practices in a broad spectrum of personal injury liability areas, is a fourth-generation Floridian and Palm Beach County native. His family was recently honored with the Fannie James Pioneering Award by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
An example of a recent notable case was the settlement in a high speed boating accident that injured two people. The case was settled by Todd Fronrath with the defendant’s insurance carrier for $1.675 million. A native of West Palm Beach, Fronrath specializes in personal injury and wrongful death litigation arising from automobile, truck and boating accidents, as well as premises and product liability, and medical malpractice.
“Despite the obstacle of the insurance industry fighting us harder than ever before in these cases and making us litigate cases a lot more, making us busier than ever, we are as committed as we have ever been to achieving successful settlements for our clients,” Fronrath says.
Another highly successful settlement, which was listed in Top Florida Verdicts and Settlements of 2012, was Wilson v. Goodman. The wrongful death case, litigated by Scott Smith, resulted in a $40 million award to the parents of the 23-year-old victim, who was killed in a car accident. The defendant, John Goodman, a local millionaire and founder of The Palm Beach International Polo Club, was also found guilty of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Another firm attorney, Ellen Roberts, who retired from her position as a Florida state prosecutor in 2012, concluded her career with the state by prosecuting Goodman.
Partner Kevin Smith, who is no relation to Scott Smith, has specialized in medical negligence for 25 years and has worked on both sides of the aisle. Prior to joining the firm in 1993, where he exclusively represents plaintiffs, he worked for a medical malpractice defense firm.
“Most of my clients are victims of medical negligence and often suffer serious complications as a result,” he says. “It is very important to me that our firm has kept its commitment to such injured individuals despite the challenges we face in such cases.”
Helping individuals injured by defective automotive design and manufacturing defects is Lance Ivey’s area of specialization. He has successfully handled defective product cases throughout the country, including settling a confidential case that resulted in a major automobile manufacturer recalling over 300,000 vehicles because of a defective seat belt. He points to the firm’s resources for helping him achieve this success for consumers.
“The firm has a tremendous amount of resources, not only when it comes to staff and competency, but also financially,” Ivey says. “Our resources allow me to pursue these large companies that bring defective products to market.”
ABOUT THE FIRM
Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fonrath is made up of 17 attorneys with more than 250 years of combined experience. All of the firm’s partners have achieved board certification in civil trial law from the Florida Bar as has attorney Matthew Haynes. Six of the partners are listed in the Best Lawyers in America and all are included in Super Lawyers. Several of the firm’s attorneys have high ratings from Martindale-Hubbell.
Assisting the attorney team are 11 paralegals and 55 additional staff members in a variety of job functions. Among them are Chief Investigator Marty Kerner, a retired deputy chief of police for Palm Beach County who has been with the firm for 16 years; Marketing Director Greg Martini, who brought 27 years of experience gained at WPBF-ABC television to the firm; Comptroller Janice Schuler and Office Manager Terry Fogarty. There are several attorneys, paralegals and staff members who have been with the firm since its inception nearly 30 years ago.
“Lake and I have been very fortunate to have such an incredible team of dedicated people surrounding us since 1985,” Reiter says. “This has allowed us to achieve justice for many clients over the years.”
“It is tremendously rewarding for me to be an integral part of the continued progress and success of the firm that my dad and Joe started,” Trey Lytal adds. Trey Lytal focuses in automobile accidents, product liability and premises liability. The Stetson University College of Law graduate enjoys helping develop future trial lawyers. He is a recipient of the Pro Bono Public Service Award from Palm Beach County Community College for his efforts in helping pre-law students advance their trial skills.
When not helping their clients, giving back to the community in which they live and work is highly important to the team at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath. The team is active as a firm and individually with a variety of organizations, including the United Way and the March of Dimes.
Reiter has been the chairman and president of the United Way of Palm Beach County and a former president of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, among several other community involvement leadership positions. Lytal has endowed a scholarship in his name for African-American students to attend the University of Florida College of Law because he believes there are not enough minority attorneys in the community. A former Army paratrooper, Ivey is active with the American Heart Association and is a former project chairman for Habitat for Humanity. Trey Lytal is on the board of directors for the United Way of Palm Beach County. Scott Smith is active with the Palm Beach County March of Dimes and has served on its board of directors. Williams is on the board of the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park and is an executive committee member for the Boy Scouts of America Gulfstream Council.
The firm also actively supports youth in high school sports throughout Palm Beach County and sponsors dozens of youth sports teams and associations. Whether helping kids and organizations in the community or resolving client’s cases, teamwork is key to the operating style at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.
“We all have each other’s backs and we support each other to provide the best possible legal representation to all of the firm’s clients,” Scott Smith says. “When I think about our team, the quote from Aristotle comes to mind: ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’”
“Joe and I are just as pleased to see that the firm continues to provide competent and aggressive legal representation,” Lake Lytal says. “We are very excited to know the law firm will be doing this for many more years to come.”
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