Lawyers joined forces to right a wrong and restore assets.
By Missy Davenport, JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
The need for pro bono legal services in our community has never been greater. These needs can be addressed though many projects and we encourage attorneys to consider making a commitment to pro bono that is both manageable and rewarding. Interested attorneys can volunteer to assist with one-day projects, such as the Ask A Lawyer events held several times during the year, monthly client clinics designed to assist with issues including bankruptcy, name changes, probate, will creation, advance directives and veterans’ needs, or take a case for full representation.
Longtime pro bono attorney Judy Ossi Hargitai has taken on several cases for full representation. She provides details about her assistance with a recent case:
What were the basic facts of your case?
In January 2016, a 17-year-old only child lost his father unexpectedly. His father was unmarried and the sole owner of a trucking company.
Months after his father’s death, family members began seeing the father’s trucks being driven around town. Upon searching the father’s business name on SunBiz.org, the client learned that other family members had removed his father’s name as the president of his company and inserted their names as the president and vice president.
The client contacted JALA for assistance. The case remained on JALA’s website for three years.
In 2019, after accepting the case and conducting an investigation, I realized that I would need the assistance of a larger firm to aid in the prosecution of the client’s claims. I reached out to Holland & Knight and Peter Hargitai agreed to co-counsel the matter with me.
We filed a petition in the probate division to open an estate on behalf of the father and a civil action against three individuals alleging fraud, tortious interference with an expectancy of inheritance, conversion and civil theft.
An evidentiary hearing was conducted in the probate division in November 2019 and an order was entered finding that: (1) the client was the sole owner of his father’s business at the date of his death; (2) the trucks should have been distributed to the client; (3) all income generated by the use of the trucks from 2016 through 2019 should have been distributed to the client; and (4) various vehicles owned by the decedent should have passed to the client.
As a result of the final judgment entered in the probate matter, we were able to settle the civil action favorably for our client. The client has received the trucks from his father’s business, all the income generated by the use of the trucks and other assets which belonged to his father.
What were you able to accomplish for your client?
The client was able to fulfill his dream of continuing to run his father’s trucking business.
Why was the outcome important to your client?
The outcome was important to the client because he wanted to keep his father’s name alive and carry on his father’s legacy.
What did you gain from the experience?
The experience was important to me because the truth was eventually revealed and a wrong was corrected.
What is the name of your firm? In what areas do you practice?
The name of my firm is Judy Ossi Hargitai P.A. and I practice law in the areas of civil litigation, probate and guardianship.
Why do you recommend other attorneys get involved?
Assisting a client who has been wronged and truly has no means to enforce the law gives me more satisfaction and honor in carrying out my oath as an attorney. The gratitude from a client is immeasurable.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit may visit floridaprobonomatters.org and type in the county to see cases awaiting placement in their area.
Attorneys may also learn of cases needing representation, clinics and one-day events by sending an email to Missy Davenport, chair, JBA Pro Bono Committee at [email protected]