Post: MOLD IN CHEST
Posted by s on 1/15/07
for those of you "who DON'T believe mold can cause extreme
health problems I submit to you an article that was
published in the St. Petersburg Times on November 2, 2006.
I think you should contact Jeff Kottkamp and tell him "it
was in his head".
Politics Jeff Kottkamp's professional conversion
He went from defending companies to suing them. But
was it really a change of heart?
By JONI JAMES Published November 2, 2006 ADVERTISEMENT
FORT MYERS - Lieutenant governor candidate Jeff
Kottkamp's so-called conversion is there in the Lee County
files in black and white, dated August 2005.
Before that date, Kottkamp, known in the Florida
Legislature for business-friendly tort reform, was a
defense attorney for Publix, Travelers insurance and other
But after more than a decade of such work, the Cape Coral
Republican filed notice that he would switch sides and
represent people who sue such companies. One of his first
cases was representing a man suing Albertsons for
Overnight, Kottkamp became a plaintiff's trial lawyer,
joining a group the Republican Party has painted as the
anathema of civil justice.
In March, Kottkamp was the only Republican state House
member to vote against one of the most sweeping,
probusiness changes ever to Florida civil litigation law,
the abolishment of joint-and-several liability.
Acquaintances speculated that Kottkamp's brush with death
had changed him. After all, he was a new plaintiff in an
October 2005 lawsuit alleging that improper maintenance of
the hospital's roof allowed mold to infiltrate the room
where he had surgery.
To some Republicans, the conversion was reason enough that
gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist shouldn't pick
Kottkamp as his running mate.
But those closest to Kottkamp, Republican and Democrat, say
there never was a conversion. Anyone who thought he had
changed just didn't know him to start with.
Power of prayer
It was July 2004 at their regular lunch spot, a Sonny's BBQ
near Interstate 75 in Fort Myers, that Larry Ringers
learned that his best friend and colleague needed
"We didn't think it would be that big a deal," Ringers
said. "He was in tremendous physical condition."
They had worked together at the same law firm for more than
a decade. Ringers was best man at Kottkamp's 1995 wedding
to Cyndie. He'd celebrated with them when Cyndie became
pregnant after years of trying. She was due in two months.
Kottkamp spent those months in hospitals, in an induced
coma, so he could undergo daily surgeries to scrape mold
from his chest cavity - mold believed to have been picked
up during his heart surgery.
As he laid in a hospital in Lee County, Hurricane Charley
came and went, and Cyndie Kottkamp was diagnosed with
Doctors counseled Cyndie that her husband's odds were slim.
Did she want to bring him out of the coma to tell him the
Instead, she called a prayer vigil. More than 70 friends
and fellow church members jammed into Kottkamp's room and
spilled into the hall. The first round of tests taken after
the vigil showed for the first time that his body was
winning the battle against the infection.
"What that did, if it changed me at all, it really deepened
my faith and made me appreciate more my family and
friends," Kottkamp said.
He was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a
series of reconstructive surgeries to restore his chest
cavity and replace his deteriorated sternum with a bundle
"The goal all along was to get him home to see Jackson
born," said Ringers. "He did, in a wheelchair in the
Jeffrey Jackson Kottkamp - named after his father and
Andrew Jackson, Florida's first territorial governor - was
born Sept. 23, 2004, the result of a second round of in
vitro fertilization. His embryo had been frozen for a year.
The couple also share two yellow Labradors named in honor
of the Bush brothers: Jeb and George.
In March 2005, as Republican lawmakers pushed to intervene
on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents to keep her husband
from removing her feeding tube, Kottkamp rose from the
House floor and, evoking his experience, supported state
"Many people in this state in this time of high emotion
just listen to their doctors and are convinced to give up,"
Kottkamp said on the House floor.
"This is simply a policy statement about what kind of state
we're going to be. ... All things being equal, we're going
to defend life."
'Both sides of the coin'
Kottkamp stewed as he sat through a debate in the House
Justice Committee in January over a bill to overhaul
Florida's civil justice system.
The proposal called for the elimination of
joint-and-several liability, a centuries-old legal doctrine
that often forced deep-pocket defendants to pay the lion's
share of damages, regardless of their share of the
As both sides of the debate fired up videocameras to tape
the proceeding, Kottkamp grew testy. "Yesterday we were
told that there were going to be cameras here today, sound
bites taken today and used against at least one of the
members of the committee in an election cycle," he said.
"Frankly, if you are so afraid of the exchange of ideas in
the process that you have to intimidate members, your ideas
must not be very good."
When the bill reached the floor, Kottkamp was the only
House Republican opposed.
Critics suggested Kottkamp was looking out for his
self-interest as a new member of one of the state's most
aggressive trial lawyer firms, Morgan & Morgan.
But Kottkamp says he would have voted for the bill had it
included a way for victims who win to return to court if
the defendant most at fault couldn't pay the damages. It
was the same kind of caveat he pushed in 2003 when he was
still a defense lawyer and played a role in rewriting the
state's medical malpractice law.
"He's always believed that victims out there, that they
don't need to be victimized twice by the system," said Rep.
Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, who twice served as vice
chairman of committees led by Kottkamp.
Lee County court files also show Kottkamp has a personal
record of taking on big companies, including once
threatening to muddy a company's name in a legislative
hearing if they didn't address his problem.
When he was the plaintiff in a suit over disputed billings
with Havertys furniture, he wrote a presuit letter warning
the company he was a lawyer and could embarrass them
publicly: "I am a member of the Florida House of
Representatives. ... I will be sure to point out your
company's actions during our upcoming hearings on consumer
"Jeff was always able to see both sides of the coin," said
attorney Scott Weinstein, who has worked with and against
Kottkamp in the courtroom. He represented Kottkamp in the
Havertys suit, which was settled out of court. "He's always
been very balanced in his approach to personal injury
Kottkamp said his so-called trial lawyer conversion was
largely a matter of financial reality. Defense attorneys
earn money based on billable hours, which can be hard to
come by for a lawmaker often traveling to Tallahassee.
"I was a partner at the oldest, biggest, most prestigious
firm in Southwest Florida. ... I thought I'd probably spend
my whole career there," Kottkamp said. "But as with most
legislator lawyers, it became very difficult to meet
Joni James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850
[Last modified November 2, 2006, 04:51:26]
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