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Harley is also codirector, with Lewin, of 411-Cars Inc., a network of small car dealers who pool their advertising resources and market themselves together. Schulman says the dealers are not specifically soliciting 411-PAIN's clients. "It's totally unrelated to accidents," she says. This year, Robert Lewin opened yet another company, 411 Pain Fight Gear, to sell mixed martial arts and boxing apparel.
Lewin hired PR consultant Schulman specifically to handle New Times' inquiries about Sohan's lawsuit against 411-PAIN. Aside from the initial, brief interview with Lewin and his lawyer, all questions were vetted through her.
She says Lewin grew the company quickly because he wanted to honor his dear friend. "Guy Shapiro's dream was to expand the network statewide and nationally and offer expanded hours," Schulman wrote in an email. "Guy's death, along with Robert's experience with his parents' Small Fry network, sparked the timing of the rapid expansion."
Regardless of motivation, 411-PAIN is vigilant about protecting its cash-cow brand. As the company has become more successful, it has spawned copycats, such as 1-800-NEED-HELP, an injury hotline with billboards along I-95 in Palm Beach County.
Last year, Lewin filed a federal lawsuit against a Palm Beach Gardens-based competitor, 888-444-PAIN, arguing the hotline was too similar to 411-PAIN's trademarked brand.
He accused 444-PAIN of service mark infringement, unfair competition, and cyberpiracy. He alleged the competitor was purposely trying to "divert customers seeking Broward Rehab to call a confusingly similar phone number" and was benefiting from the "brand recognition and goodwill" that 411-PAIN had worked so hard to establish. This March, Lewin won a $5 million judgment and a permanent injunction preventing the company from continuing to use the 444-PAIN brand.
As for Sohan and Rodriguez's case, Lewin says that the frequency of their visits would have been determined by the severity of their injuries. "The doctor gives the care plan," he says. "It's not based on convenience; it's based on what the doctor feels is best for the patient's health." Lewin says it's 411-PAIN's policy to distribute an explanation of services to each patient, so Sohan should have received that. And he should have asked questions if he was confused.
When Sohan and Rodriguez filed their class-action suit in Broward Circuit Court this October, Lewin suspected that competitors were somehow behind the lawsuit. He called it "slimy business tactics" and insists that everything his company is doing is legal.
"What this lawsuit is really about is 411-PAIN's market share," Lewin says. "Competition is supposed to bring out the best in people, and in this case, it's brought out the worst."
Sohan and Rodriguez finally stopped going to Broward Rehab in August after two months of frequent visits. Around that time, Rodriguez complained to a neighbor about his experience with the clinic and 411-PAIN. The neighbor happened to work for the Kelley/Uustal law firm in Fort Lauderdale and suggested they talk to the lawyers there. When Sohan and Rodriguez relayed their troubles to the attorneys, the lawyers decided to file a suit.
As the case gets publicized, Kelley/Uustal hopes to find other plaintiffs to join the suit who believe they have been ripped off by 411-PAIN.
"411-PAIN has misled accident victims about who they are and what they really do," says Eric Rosen, Sohan's attorney. "This lawsuit is meant to stop this and compensate all Florida consumers who have used the 411-PAIN service and fallen for their unfair practices."
Kelley/Uustal doesn't compete with 411-PAIN and doesn't handle small car-accident cases. Rosen says the firm will not charge Sohan a penny if he loses his case.
For now, Sohan's auto insurance company has frozen his PIP payments to Broward Rehab. The high medical bills and large amount of treatment for a minor fender-bender raised a red flag with the company's investigators, and they are now examining Sohan's case, Rosen says.
In all, Broward Rehab billed Sohan for $15,185 worth of services.
If he wins his class-action suit, Sohan hopes to get all his medical bills paid or waived and his attorney fees covered. He's also asked for an undetermined amount of damages to compensate him for the money 411-PAIN made from having him as a client.
Meanwhile, Sohan is still living with his parents in Sunrise. He still works at Target, but his hours have been severely cut because of his lingering injury. Since Broward Rehab's insurance bill exceeded $10,000, there's no PIP money left to cover his lost wages.
Instead of walking around with a healthy back and the thousands of dollars he envisioned getting from 411-PAIN, he's struggling to make ends meet. The pain in his back lingers, along with his mountain of medical bills.
Turns out, surviving an IED attack in Iraq was easier than surviving his minor car accident in Fort Lauderdale.