NEWS & PUBLICATIONS
Casellas Alcover & Burgos, P.S.C. News
Seven Years, Seven Lessons
I learned that clients hire the lawyer, not the firm. My partners and I were working together for another firm. When that firm terminated pension plans, we decided to go out on our own. We wanted to create our own identity and brand. This would involve picking our employees and developing our own way to manage a practice. We were encouraged when most of our corporate clients followed us. I learned through this process that America truly is the land of opportunity. If you are ethical and do good work, your clients will support you.
We have a saying in Spanish: más vale ser cabeza de ratón que la cola de león; it is better to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion. We all worked for a very large firm before starting our own and agree that it is infinitely better to lead a small firm than to be a cog in the wheel of a large organization. You are able to carve your own path by choosing the work that is important to you. Coming to work is different each and every day, and it's endlessly rewarding.
In building this firm, I've found that it's important to develop one area of expertise, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. We try cases in local courts, federal courts, and administrative agencies. We do both domestic and international arbitration cases, but we stick to the basics of what we're good at. We are experts at commercial litigation and counseling in corporate matters. We can adapt to change, but keep the focus on these areas. You don't learn this in any textbook, but developing a focused expertise makes you different from any other good lawyer out there. The best way to serve clients is to be excellent in just a few areas. That's your best calling card.
Over the years, I've also realized how important it is to have confidence in yourself. We've represented PETA, Kellogg, Bacardi, Welch's, Pfizer, NBC/Telemundo, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and other major organizations. We're also very active in litigation involving distribution law issues, First Amendment defense, and health laws. It is crucial to be certain of your abilities when representing big companies on high-profile cases. For me, that certainty was acquired during a mid-'90s case I handled for the Miami Heat. Their mascot was sued in federal court for his actions at an exhibition game in Puerto Rico. He grabbed a woman out of the stands against her will and pulled her across the court. She was the spouse of a Puerto Rican Supreme Court justice, so nobody wanted to take the case. I believe everyone is entitled to a defense, so I represented the team and the mascot. They received a fair jury trial and eventually reached a favorable outcome after two jury trials and an appeal. During this case, I proved to myself that I could overcome adversity in order to defend a client. I earn respect by taking on sensitive cases, and I always enjoy the challenge.
A lawyer has to analyze a case on its nose. From the facts and the law, you can predict success or failure. However, I never reject a case simply because I believe the client has a probability of losing. Over the last seven years, I've seen some unlikely outcomes. I'm always open with the client about the probabilities, and again, everyone deserves a defense. If a client is truthful about their version of events, I will represent them.
Many of us get into this line of work because we want to contribute to a just society and do work we believe in. But when you open your own firm, you also have to manage it well. You need great partners, great associates, and a great staff. And you have to treat them fairly and with respect. For the firm to operate at high levels, you must make sound business decisions. Being a good lawyer isn't enough—you have to be a good businessman, too.
While lawyers are notorious for working long hours, the past seven years have shown me how important it is to have a healthy balance between work and life. I have more flexibility now since I manage my own schedule and hours, but I have to work harder to manage the business. Technology is a huge help. I can work with all of my firm's resources from home if necessary, or I can use FaceTime or Skype from almost anywhere in the world. I don't always have to be in the office to get things done.
COVID - 19 Update
by CAB on April 2nd, 2020
Alert! During the pandemic, CAB remains open for business and is prepared to serve our clients from our homes. Before the Government of Puerto Rico announced its extension of the closure order to April 12, we announced ours to be safe. Our full staff of attorneys and support employees stand ready to manage the crisis and continue to serve our clients remotely to provide the best service possible. Our attorneys have access to e-mail and are available to talk by cel. phone or videoconference. We are staying safe and hope you are too. Contact us.
Chambers Latin America 2014 Distinguishes CAB Partners and Ranks Senior Associate Natalia Morales as an “Associate to Watch.”
Cesar T. Alcover serves as lecturer and moderator at 7th Annual Health Law Conference.
CAB Partners Commended by Chambers and Partners in the Chambers Global 2013 Report.
CAB Obtains Reversal on Appeal of $20M Judgment Against its Client, PRTC
CAB and its Partners Recognized in 2013 Chambers Latin America Report.
Awards in Law 75 cases in Puerto Rico
Microsoft names Casellas Alcover & Burgos, P.S.C. its preferred law firm in Puerto Rico
Three CAB lawyers selected for The Best Lawyers in Puerto Rico, 2014 edition
César Alcover and Heriberto Burgos were named in the practice area of Litigation.
Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® is regarded as a definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which almost 50,000 leading attorneys cast nearly five million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas, and because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”
Ricardo F. Casellas appointed as Chairperson of the Rules Advisory Committee of The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
by CAB on June 5, 2015
Ricardo Casellas was the keynote speaker on "Appellate Procedure in the First Circuit
César Alcover Was a Guest Speaker in the Fifth Health Law Conference
Ricardo Casellas Serves as Moderator in an Activity that Honored the Most Senior Federal Judges in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico
Best Lawyers announces firm awards in Puerto Rico, 2019 edition
by CAB on November 2018
Carla S. Loubriel Appointed To The Rules Advisory Committee For The United States Court Of Appeals For The First Circuit.
by CAB on April 25th, 2019
CAB Junior Partner Carla S. Loubriel has been appointed by Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to serve as a member of the Court’s Rules Advisory Committee. Carla, whose term will end in 2022, joins a select group of practicing attorneys, tasked with reviewing and making recommendations regarding the rules of practice and internal operating procedures for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the First Circuit Judicial Council.
View the press release here.
Cesar T. Alcover To Serve As Lecturer At Seminar For Administrators And Managers Of Imaging Centers.
by CAB on April 29th, 2019
CAB partner César T. Alcover will be among the lecturers at this year’s “Seminar for Administrators and Managers of Imaging Centers,” hosted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association. The seminar will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort in Rio Mar, Puerto Rico, and it is offered for continuing medical education credits. César is part of a panel that will be presenting on legal aspects of the management and adjudication of health care claims.
View the seminar agenda here.
CAB Wins Reversal By Puerto Rico Supreme Court Of Administrative Law Ruling Issued In Violation Of Its Client’s Due Process Rights
by CAB on April 5th, 2019
CAB successfully represented Mercedes Benz USA, LLC and Mercedes Benz Financial Services USA, LLC (Mercedes) before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in its appeal against a decision by the intermediate appellate court confirming a ruling by the Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO, by its Spanish acronym), which Mercedes had argued went against the clear weight of the evidence presented at the administrative hearing.
Claimants, a vehicle owner and his wife, brought a claim before DACO against Mercedes and the dealership, Garage Isla Verde, LLC, for a persistent oil leak in the rear end of their vehicle. They requested a vehicle exchange based on a substantial defect or, alternatively, resolution of the sales/purchase agreement, return of monies, and emotional damages. Despite evidence on the record that the oil leak had been fixed, the claimant’s failure to rebut a DACO expert report establishing as much, additional expert testimony during the hearing to that effect, and a lack of testimonial evidence to support a finding of emotional damages, the DACO administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a ruling in favor of claimants, granting them full relief. The ALJ concluded that the sale/purchase agreement was null and void because the vehicle’s oil leak predated the sale, such that Garage Isla Verde incurred in a fraudulent sales practice, and included other factual findings that were unsupported by the record. The ALJ went as far as to find that Mercedes used “less than ideal” materials in the manufacturing of the vehicle’s oil pan, when no such evidence has been presented, and that the vehicle’s oil leak had been a source of environmental contamination, meriting referral of the ALJ’s ruling to the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In an Opinion authored by the Hon. Luis F. Estrella Martínez, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court concluded that both DACO and the Court of Appeals violated their own procedural rules and infringed Mercedes’s due process rights, by denying its motion for reconsideration and request for judicial review without first addressing Mercedes’s timely and substantiated petition for copy of the administrative hearing transcript.
The Court held that, where judicial review is taken from an administrative adjudication based on a lack of evidence to support the factual determinations made by the agency, and the appellant has made a proper request for copy of the hearing transcript in order to challenge the administrative ruling against the oral evidence, the Court of Appeals must first grant the transcript request. Because deference to the administrative agency’s factual findings requires that they be supported by substantial evidence, the Court of Appeals may not confirm on that ground without first granting appellants access to the full administrative record on appeal.
The Puerto Rico Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals for further appellate review, upon evaluation of the full record including the hearing transcript.
AAA ICDR Panel Rules In Favor Of CAB Distributor Client In Law 75 Arbitration, Awarding Over $1.1m In Damages, Fees And Costs
by CAB on May 9th, 2019
On May 2, 2019, a three-member panel of the International Center for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) issued a 2-1 decision in favor of CAB’s client, claimant Puerto Rico Hospital Supply Group, Inc. (“PRHS”), and against respondent Johnson & Johnson International (“J&JI”), after contentious arbitration proceedings, in which PRHS alleged termination without just cause under Puerto Rico’s Dealer’s Contract Law 75 of a non-exclusive distribution agreement, and requested damages over $400,000 plus an award of fees and costs.
The AAA Panel determined that J&JI had terminated the agreement without just cause in violation of Law 75. The Panel awarded PRHS five years of lost profits on the line, the cost of the returned inventory, AAA fees, the pro rata share of fees it paid for panel compensation, attorney’s and expert witness fees as the prevailing party under Law 75, and costs and interest at the annual rate of 6.25% for a sum exceeding $1.1 million. The Panel also unanimously concluded that J&JI had failed to prove the existence of the debt or its amount and dismissed the counterclaim with prejudice.
The Panel decided interesting and substantial questions under Puerto Rico Law 75, including as to the use of pretext evidence to overcome a manufacturer’s proffer of just cause for a termination, and the reasonability of contractual payment terms as “rules of conduct” under the Law 75’s Section 278a-1(c). For more background and detail on this case, please visit our blog on Puerto Rico Law 75.
CAB partner Ricardo F. Casellas was lead counsel in this case, and the related federal litigation. Heriberto Burgos Pérez, Mariano A. Mier-Romeu, and Mercedes Rodríguez were also part of CAB’s litigation team.