Defending Against Civil RICO Claims: Strategies and Expert Insights

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by | August 24, 2023

Civil RICO cases are often complex and challenging, but with the right legal strategy, individuals and businesses can effectively defend their interests and reputations. In this article, we will discuss the key elements of RICO claims along with defenses to these claims to protect yourself and your business.

Understanding Civil RICO Claims

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law enacted to combat organized crime and racketeering activities. Although originally designed to combat organized criminal enterprises, RICO has been expanded to also apply to civil lawsuits. Under civil RICO, private parties can bring lawsuits against individuals or entities alleging that they engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that resulted in financial harm.

RICO claims can be brought against various types of defendants, including individuals, business, and even governmental entities. To prevail on a civil RICO claim, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  1. Conduct:
  2. Of an Enterprise:
  3. Through a Pattern: Two or more qualifying acts within a ten-year period.
  4. of Racketeering Activity: Broadly defined in the RICO statute, to include
  5. Resulting in Harm: the plaintiff’s injuries were directly caused by the defendant’s RICO violations.

Common Defense Strategies Against Civil RICO lawsuits

  1. Early Case Evaluation: An important step in crafting a strong defense strategy is conducting an early and thorough case evaluation. Our experienced civil RICO attorneys will carefully analyze the plaintiff’s allegations, gather evidence, and evaluate the strength of the RICO claim. Identifying potential weaknesses in the plaintiff’s claims early on can lead to a more favorable outcome and can save costs.
  2. Challenging the “Enterprise” Element: An oft-used defense strategy involves challenging the existence “enterprise.” In order for a group of individuals and/or business to be an “enterprise” under RICO, certain structural requirements must be met.
  3. No Pattern of Racketeering Activity: A plaintiff must establish a “pattern of racketeering activity.”  This element is commonly challenged because even when a plaintiff alleges misconduct, they often fail to allege a “pattern” as required by RICO.  Remember, RICO was originally enacted to combat long-term, criminal conduct rather than garden-variety wrongdoing.  Even where plaintiffs allege wrongdoing, they often fail to establish the type of long-term, criminal conduct that RICO is designed to address.
  4. Causation and Proximate Cause: The plaintiff must establish a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the alleged injuries.  Mere coincidental connections will not suffice, and there can often be arguments that there are superseding or intervening causes of any harm that occurred.
  5. Statute of Limitations Defense: Civil RICO claims must be brought within a certain timeframe.  A careful analysis of the plaintiff’s claim and the timeline of events can reveal any statute of limitations defenses.
  6. Preemption and Exclusive Remedies: In some cases, RICO claims may be preempted by other federal laws. A careful analysis of the plaintiff’s factual allegations can also reveal the potential application of laws that might preempt a RICO claim.

Defending against civil RICO claims requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Our attorneys have extensive experience defending against civil RICO claims, and will navigate the complexities of these cases, identify weaknesses in the plaintiff’s case, and pursue the most effective case strategies to achieve favorable outcomes. If you find yourself facing a RICO claim, do not hesitate to contact our law firm for expert guidance and representation.