Michael Dolce is Of Counsel at Cohen Milstein, and a member of the firm’s Catastrophic Injury practice group. Mr. Dolce, who joined the firm in 2015, is a highly regarded trial lawyer and political activist who has dedicated his career to seeking justice for the victims of abuse. His practice focuses specifically on the victims of sexual abuse, sex crimes and domestic violence. He is a champion of children, representing child victims as well as adult survivors of child sex abuse who bear scars and injuries into adulthood. It is an experience he understands on a personal and visceral level: Having himself been the victim of sexual abuse as a young boy at the hands of a sadistic predator, he arose from the trauma determined to be a voice for others and secure justice for them.
Mr. Dolce brings to his work the insight of a survivor who is determined to use his understanding and ability to communicate exactly what crime and injury victims go through, and what they need in their difficult and courageous healing processes. Among his noted work, in 2009, he achieved a jury verdict on behalf of a child abuse victim, totaling over $19.2 million, that was named by “Verdict Search” one of the top 100 verdicts nationwide that year.
In 2010, Mr. Dolce’s six-year crusade in Florida’s legislature culminated in the passage of sweeping legislation that repealed all statutes of limitation for civil and criminal prosecution of child sexual battery, overcoming a powerful and well-financed opposition. That victory was fueled by Mr. Dolce’s testimony numerous times before legislative committees, which one major newspaper reported left senators “captivated” and “spellbound.” His effort was supported by a grassroots organization of some 200 survivors that he led as the chair of the political committee, Protect Our Kids First, Inc., a campaign he formed to amend the state’s Constitution on Election Day. His precedent-setting strategy worked to compel the Legislature to ensure that never again will a child in Florida be turned away from any civil or criminal court due to the passage of time. And no predator can ever again take comfort in the ticking of a clock after threatening a child into silence.
Mr. Dolce’s work has gained him national recognition with awards from both fellow attorneys and crime victim advocates, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence and the Florida Justice Association. Mr. Dolce is a sought-after speaker, having addressed conferences of many of the largest child abuse survivor organizations in the world, including the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. Recently, he was invited to join the Sexual Violence Focus Group of the Office of the Florida State Courts Administrator; the group will work over the next year on several sexual violence projects, including updating the Florida Sexual Violence Bench Book and developing a strategic plan for sexual violence projects. His work has been cited across the nation by law professors and judges, including the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Mr. Dolce graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Lynn University and received his J.D. from Stetson University.
Currently, Mr. Dolce is litigating the following notable matters:
- Jane Doe v. Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches: Mr. Dolce represents a teenaged sex abuse victim who was abused in a residential childcare facility by an adult resident of the facility. This civil suit against the facility follows a successful criminal prosecution of the abuser, asserting that the facility failed to maintain proper child safety procedures and policies.
- Rose, Fitzsimons and Davis v. The Devereux Foundation, Inc.: Mr. Dolce represents adult survivors in three related lawsuits, asserting child physical and sexual abuse at a licensed therapeutic group home perpetrated by several staff members.
- Jane Doe v. Seagate Hotel and Spa: Mr. Dolce represents an adult in this action against a resort hotel asserting that she was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist. The suit alleges that the hotel negligently hired the therapist who had been discharged just two months earlier by his prior employer for similarly sexually assaulting a guest.
- Harris v. William Degray: Mr. Dolce represents an adult survivor of domestic violence who suffered substantial physical and mental health injuries, including Battered Woman Syndrome.
Some of his past successes include:
- Jane Doe vs. Tim Crowe: Mr. Dolce represented a child sex abuse survivor in a direct action against the perpetrator, resulting in a $19.2 million compensatory damage verdict, named one of the Top 100 verdicts nationwide in 2009 by The National Law Journal/Verdict Search.
- Hollins v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.: Mr. Dolce represented an adult survivor of child sexual abuse against his former church (Jehovah’s Witnesses), resulting in a confidential settlement.
- A.S.W. v. Happy House, Inc.: Mr. Dolce represented a pre-school child against a day care center in a child-on-child sex abuse case, resulting in a confidential settlement.
- Jane Doe v. James Byrne and Linda Byrne: Mr. Dolce represented a mentally disabled child in an action against a neighbor who sexually abused her over a two-year period and against the abuser’s wife, on a theory that she failed to protect the child after finding evidence of ongoing abuse. The jury awarded damages of $3.5 million, ordering both defendants to pay.