Maria Elena Abate

Shareholder

Since joining Colodny Fass in 1992 the day after Hurricane Andrew, 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 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.

Consistently active with the Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee, she has become a trusted resource for those seeking to rid the state of its dubious reputation as the insurance fraud capital of the nation. In additional to regularly lecturing and instructing, she has been called upon to serve on industry workshop panels, and in an advisory and training capacity to insurance companies, agents and their employees to help eradicate fraud through education and communication. 

As part of her practice, Ms. Abate handles a wide variety of insurance agent and broker-related matters, which include claims like breach of duty, misrepresentation, fraud or inadequate coverage.  From licensing and liability, coverage disputes, errors and omissions, insurance solvency concerns, investigations and disciplinary proceedings, to new challenges like cyber-risk, social media and health care regulation, she holds a track record of success in helping agents and brokers navigate their duties and obligations under the law. 

She provides counsel to agents on avoiding the liability pitfalls of errors and omissions in the many and varied circumstances of servicing policyholders.  Typical claims include breach of duty, inadequate coverage, misrepresentation or fraud, inadequate business practices, and inadequate communication and documentation.

Serving together with Firm Managing Partner Mike Colodny as outside general counsel, Ms. Abate 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 been named as a “Top Lawyer” and a “Distinguished Attorney” by the South Florida Legal Guide, among other prestigious recognitions, including “Insurance Defense Attorney of the Year” finalist by the Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee.

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 Health Initiative, a charitable organization dedicated to providing free mammograms to uninsured women.

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.

She is fluent in Spanish.

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

Special Recognition

Conferences Attended

  • 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

  • Colodny Fass Lawyer Maria Elena Abate Provides Legislative Review at Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies Annual Conference, August, 2017
  • Colodny Fass Lawyers Counsel Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies On Errors and Omissions Liability Pitfalls, August 2017
  • 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.
  • Colodny Fass’ Maria Elena Abate to Speak at the 2014 CLM Claims College,” September 9, 2014.
  • 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” 
  • 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
  • Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee Conference; June 14, 2012; “Fighting Fraud in Sinkhole Claims” 
  • 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 
  • 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

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