Since joining Colodny Fass in 1992, Shareholder Maria Elena Abate has built her reputation and expertise in the areas of complex commercial litigation, insurance defense, bad faith and class action defense, as well as employment law and civil rights issues.
Ms. Abate, who serves as Managing Partner of the Firm’s Litigation Division, is a member of the elite Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, an invitation-only national organization committed to furthering high standards of litigation and claims management in pursuit of client defense. With over 25 years of experience, she has worked closely with multiple defense firms and joint defense groups in complex commercial matters.
Serving together with Firm Managing Partner Mike Colodny as outside general counsel, she was instrumental in the ability of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to continue its ability to pay policyholders’ claims in the wake of several major hurricanes. For Citizens, Ms. Abate also handled complex litigation and class actions, as well as oversaw its defense counsel teams. She counseled Citizens’ claims handling and managed litigation of all its wind- and water-related cases. Her insurance-related governmental clients have included Citizens’ predecessor, the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association, as well as the Florida Department of Insurance Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation Services.
Ms. Abate, who formerly served as General Counsel to the South Florida Workforce Board for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, represents major employers and state agencies in the defense of employment-related class action and complex litigation, as well as other high-risk employment-related matters in cases involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, Section 1981 and 1983 claims, non-disclosures, non-competes, tortious interference claims and constitutional violations.
With extensive experience in handling employment-related matters involving all forms of discrimination, constitutional violations, health care issues, whistleblower claims, and breach of contract and unpaid wage claims, she is frequently called upon to counsel businesses in the volatile forum of human resources, specifically related to EEOC interventions, workplace investigations, training for best practices and employee manuals.
Ms. Abate has also been recognized for her efforts to eradicate insurance fraud in the State of Florida, from legislation, administrative efforts and litigation, to working side by side with regulators and insurers to train insurance company employees, agents and brokers on how to recognized and prevent all forms of insurance fraud. A speaker at the recent Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee 25th Anniversary event, she was nominated as “Insurance Defense Attorney of the Year” for her unique, multi-level fraud-fighting and prevention strategies.
Ms. Abate has been named as a Super Lawyer, Top Lawyer in the South Florida Legal Guide, and in other prestigious attorney ranking publications throughout consecutive years.
Prior to joining the Firm, Ms. Abate served as a staff attorney for The Honorable Arthur M. Birken, the Honorable Miette K. Burnstein, the Honorable Robert L. Andrews, the Honorable Patricia W. Cocalis, the Honorable Mel Grossman the late Honorable Joseph E. Price, and the late Honorable Stephen R. Booher of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida.
A member of the Florida Bar, Ms. Abate is admitted to practice in all Florida state and appellate courts, the United States District Court for the Southern, Middle, and Northern Districts of Florida, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.
She is a member of the Florida Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Broward County Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Legal Panel in Miami-Dade County, and the Stakeholder’s Committee for the United States Equal Opportunity Commission Miami District Office.
Currently, she is a member of the Florida Bar’s Executive Committee. She formerly served as Continuing Legal Education Chair of the Bar’s Public Interest Law Section (PILS) and is Past Chair of PILS’ Legal Needs of Children Committee. She also is a founding board member of the Women’s Breast and Heart Health Initiative, a charitable organization dedicated to providing free mammograms and health screenings to uninsured women.
Fluent in Spanish, Ms. Abate received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami, cum laude, and her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law, cum laude.
- University of Miami, J.D., cum laude
- University of Miami, B.A., cum laude
Professional Associations and Memberships
- The Florida Bar
- Executive Committee
- Public Interest Law Section
- Chair, Continuing Education
- Past Chair, Legal Needs of Children Committee
- Claims and Litigation Management Alliance
- Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee
- Stephen R. Booher American Inn of Court
- The Broward County Bar Association
- Chair, Employment Law Section
- American Civil Liberties Union of Florida
- Equal Opportunity Commission Stakeholders Committee
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. District Court for the Southern, Middle, and Northern Districts of Florida
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
Civic and Community Involvement
- Florida’s Children First
- Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section Chairman, 2008-2009
- Florida Bar’s Public Interest Law Section Legal Needs of Children Committee Co-Chair
- The Women’s Breast and Heart Health Initiative; Founding Board Member
- Springview Elementary EESAC Committee
- AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell
- Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities
- 2005, 2014 South Florida Legal Guide “Top Lawyer”
- 2006, 2008-2016 Florida Super Lawyers
- Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee “Insurance Defense Attorney of the Year” Nominee
- Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section and Legal Needs of Children Committee Annual Reception, June 19, 2008
- State of the Florida Insurance Market Summit: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
- Class Actions hosted by CLE International, Oct. 2007
- Interviewing/Examining Child Witnesses hosted by the National Constitution Center Conference, July 2007
- Changing Mental Health hosted by the Florida Bar, Jun. 2007
- Leadership in the Law hosted by the Stephan R. Booher American Inn of Court, Mar. 2007
- Do You Hear Me Now? Child Hearsay Considerations hosted by the Florida Bar Association, Mar. 2007
- Panelist for the Panel Discussion Practical Issues with Child Hearsay from Various Perspectives
- Case Management/ECF hosted by the United States District Court, Apr. 2006
- Catastrophic Insurance Claims Seminar, Mar. 2006
- Children’s Legislative Conference, Jan. 2006
- 2005 ACLU Lawyers’ Conference hosted by the Florida ACLU, July 2006
- Employment Law hosted by the Broward County Women’s Law Association and the Florida Bar, May 2005
- After the 2004 Hurricane Season, Dec. 2004
- 2003 Masters Seminar on Ethics hosted by the Florida Bar, Jun. 2004
Recent Speaking Engagements
- Property Casualty Insurers Association of America Northeast General Counsel Seminar; September 19-20, 2016. Assignment of Benefits and Litigation Panel.
- Claims and Litigation Management Alliance; Level 1 Class on Property Insurance Fraud and a Level 2 Class on Personal Injury Protection Insurance Fraud at the CLM 2016 Claims College School of Insurance Fraud in Baltimore, Maryland; September 7-10
- Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies Annual Conference, Hollywood, Florida; July 27, 2016. Legislative Summary, Assignment of Benefits and Personal Injury Protection Update.
- Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA) Annual Conference; July 30, 2014; “Up the Creek with Both Paddles! Understanding Agent’s Obligations and E & O Exposure in Today’s Economy” with Sharlee Hobbs Edwards
- Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee (FIFEC) Conference; June 11, 2014; Orlando, FL; “Nip it in the Bud–Frontline Defense to PIP and Workers’ Compensation Fraud.”
- 2014 CLM Annual Conference; April 10, 2014; “The Vanishing Privileges–A Discussion of Attorney-Client and Work Product Privileges in Bad Faith Cases and How to Best Protect Confidential Communications”
- Ascendant Holdings, LLC, April 1, 2014; “Effective Use of Social Media, Investigations in Claims Handling & Litigation, It’s No Secret“
- Florida Peninsula; March 21, 2014; Boca Raton, FL; “The Cost of Fraud and its Effects on the Industry“
- State of the Florida Insurance Market Summit; January 29, 2014; “Effective Use of Social Media, Investigations in Claims Handling & Litigation, It’s No Secret“
- PCI Surplus Lines Committee; November 14, 2013; Chicago, IL; “Developments Expanding the Potential Scope of Broker Liability“
- Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies Presentation; September 4, 2013; Updates on HB 119 and Litigation (Myers v. McCarty) – Maria Elena Abate
- Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies Presentation; July 18, 2013; “PIP and Workers’ Compensation Fraud: All Agents Are Impacted!” — Maria Elena Abate and others.
- Florida Insurance Fraud Education Conference; June 6, 2013; “Fighting Fraud in Sinkhole Claims” – Maria Elena Abate and Silvia Gonzalez
- MAGNA Legal Services – Streamlining Relationships with Outside Counsel; Naples, June 5, 2013; “The Privilege is all mine! The classic formulations of the attorney client privilege and work product doctrine”
- 2013 State of the Florida Insurance Market Summit; January 30, 2013; “Don’t Get Caught With Your Whistle Blown” – Maria Elena Abate, Amy Koltnow, Silvia Gonzalez
- Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee Conference; June 14, 2012; “Fighting Fraud in Sinkhole Claims” – Maria Elena Abate and Silvia Maria Gonzalez
- 2012 State of the Florida Insurance Market Summit; March 14, 2012; “Crawling Out of the Litigation ‘Hole’ – An In-Depth Conversation on Sinkholes and Fighting Fraudulent Claims” – Maria Elena Abate, with Amy L. Koltnow and Silvia M. Gonzalez
- 2012 State of the Florida Insurance Market Summit; March 14, 2012; “News from the World of Insurance Litigation” – Maria Elena Abate and Amy L. Koltnow
Recently Published Articles and Media Appearances
- Claims Management Magazine; “Battling Back Against the Use of AOBs in Water-Related Claims” By Maria Elena Abate. July 22, 2016.
- ABA/TIPS Insurance Regulation Newsletter; “Florida Courts To Employ Daubert Standard to Expert Opinion Testimony as of July 1, 2013” by Maria Elena Abate, Esq. and others
- Maria E. Abate and Matthew C. Scarfone in The Daily Business Review; May 22, 2013; “First DCA to weigh limits to PIP reimbursement,” commentary.
- Maria E. Abate quoted in the Claims Journal, April 15, 2013; “That Sinking Feeling.”
- Maria E. Abate and Matthew C. Scarfone quoted in The Daily Business Review; April 6, 2012; “Courts leave insurers uncertain of PIP repayments,” commentary.
- Daily Business Review; December 16, 2011; “3rd, 4th DCAs hold insurer may limit PIP reimbursements” by Maria E. Abate and Matthew C. Scarfone
- June 4, 2009–“Florida Supreme Court: Motion to Compel Appraisals Now Immediately Appealable Under Amended Appellate Procedure Rules” In-depth analysis of the revised Rules of Appellate Procedure adopted by the Florida Supreme Court on January 30, 2009.
- Federation of Regulatory Counsel (“FORC”) Quarterly Journal of Insurance Law and RegulationVol. 19 Edition 1, Spring 2008–“Putting a Stop to the Parade of Horribles“, co-authored by Maria Abate and Amy Koltnow. This past September, 2007, after three long years of claims handling and litigation chaos, the Florida Supreme Court put an end to the havoc wreaked by the 2004 appellate court decision in Mierzwa v. Florida Windstorm Underwriting Ass’n, 877 So.2d 774 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004), that shifted the burden of paying for non-covered flood damage to homeowner insurance companies.
- Sept. 27, 2007–“A Judicious End to the Parade of Horribles” In-depth analysis of the September 25, 2007 Florida Supreme Court reversal of Florida’s Valued Policy Law, by Maria Elena Abate, Shareholder, Colodny, Fass.
- The Miami Herald, Oct. 23, 2007–“Breast cancer survivor raises awareness“Front page feature article on the Florida Breast Health Initiative (“FBHI”). CFTKA Shareholder Maria Elena Abate is a founding board member of the FBHI, a charitable organization dedicated to providing free mammograms to uninsured women by targeting neighborhoods likely to have the highest concentrations of the uninsured and underserved.
- A.M. Best 12th installment of the Insurance Law Podcast--To listen to a podcast of attorneys Maria Abate and Amy Koltnow from the law firm of Colodny Fass in Florida discuss an important Supreme Court decision favoring major insurance companies, click here.
- The Florida Bar News, Volume 35, Number 3, Feb. 1, 2008–“Public Interest Law Section Advocates for a Just Society” Ms. Abate was featured in this article about the Public Interest Law Section in her capacity as Vice-Chair.