UPDATE: Tallahassee PR Firm Drops Suit Against Former Client Eric Brody
Update 10:30 a.m. 9/15/14:
Tallahassee public relations firm owner Ron Sachs has dropped his lawsuit against former client Eric Brody, Sachs announced on his website Friday. Two years ago, Sachs Media Group helped persuade the Legislature to dole out nearly $11 million to cover medical care for the brain-damaged man. Brody had been severely injured when a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy crashed into the car he was riding in. Last month, Sachs told WFSU he was suing for $375,000 because the Brodys had agreed to pay for public relations services if and when the claims bill passed. In his online announcement, Sachs writes the firm and the Brody family have amicably resolved all outstanding issues and he no longer seeks payment.
Original story post from 08/07/14:
Tallahassee public relations firm owner Ron Sachs is suing a high-profile former client. Sachs is trying to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars for his services after helping brain-damaged man Eric Brody win a claims bill two years ago.
In 2012, the Florida Legislature awarded Brody nearly $11 million to cover his medical bills and future care. Brody had been severely brain damaged for 14 years, ever since a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy crashed into a car he was riding in. For years, the Brody family had tried to get the Legislature to approve his claims bill—it’s the process victims must use to recoup the largest jury awards against public entities.
Ron Sachs says his firm worked for three-and-a-half years on the family’s behalf.
“And our services were essential to that positive outcome because we kept the story alive with grassroots efforts and social and digital media, creating a community called Justice for Eric Brody,” Sachs says.
Sachs says a contract with Brody’s family says he would bill them for services if and when a bill passed. But the Brody family has not agreed to pay the $375,000 Sachs is seeking. They cite language in the claims bill stipulating none of the insurance company money can go to pay lobbyists or lawyers.
State Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) sponsored Brody’s bill. He says, “If we would have known at the time that a PR firm was going to try and take credit for the bill passing while simultaneously claiming not to be a lobbyist, then perhaps we would have drafted some stronger language just to make sure.”
He says in last-minute negotiations that greased the bill’s passage, Brody’s lawyer, Lance Block, and a lobbyist working on the case agreed to waive their fees.
Grant says he participated in a press conference for Brody set up by former Sachs Media senior partner Alia Faraj-Johnson, but Grant assumed PR services for Brody were provided pro bono.
“This case was about Eric Brody and nothing but making sure that he had the resources to survive this incident,” Grant says. “So to me, the lawsuit’s pretty disgusting.”
Faraj-Johnson declined to comment for this story. But last year, she told St. Petersblog blogger Peter Schorch that Eric Brody was her favorite pro bono client.
Sachs says Faraj-Johnson misspoke.
“I think, in her mind, ‘pro bono’ meant a good-guy cause,” he says. “She knew we had a contract to get paid if and only if a claims bill passed.”
And Sachs says there’s precedent for the type of agreement he made with the Brodys. He says after he helped the family of murdered Tallahassee police informant Rachel Hoffman get their claims bill passed, the Hoffman family paid him for his services.