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    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

    open-heart surgery.

    "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

    of muscles.

    "The goal all along was to get him home to see Jackson

    born," said Ringers. "He did, in a wheelchair in the

    delivery room."

    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

    protection legislation."

    "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 or 850


    [Last modified November 2, 2006, 04:51:26]

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