Michael Dolce is a Partner at Cohen Milstein, a member of the firm’s Complex Tort Litigation practice, and leads the firm’s Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Abuse team.
A highly regarded trial lawyer and political activist, Mr. Dolce’s practice is dedicated to representing survivors of sexual crimes, including child and adult victims, and adult survivors of child sexual abuse. His team represents clients from initial disclosure to law enforcement, to police investigations, criminal prosecutions, injunction proceedings and civil lawsuits against individual criminals and any institution that gave them safe harbor to commit their crimes. Mr. Dolce brings to his work the insight and commitment of a survivor, having himself been the victim of sexual abuse as a young boy at the hands of a sadistic predator.
In litigation, he has achieved multiple multi-million-dollar trial verdicts for his clients, as well as numerous substantial settlements. Among many awards that he has received for his work is his selection by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America.
In 2019, Mr. Dolce was named to Lawdragon’s list of 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers, which recognizes “the best of the U.S. plaintiffs’ bar” who specialize in representing individuals who have suffered injuries, including injuries related to sexual abuse, sex trafficking and domestic violence. Mr. Dolce also received Daily Business Review’s 2019 “Innovative Practice Areas” award.
His expertise and accomplishments in sex crime victim rights is nationally recognized. CNN relied on him as an expert for an investigative report into mishandling of sex crime investigations. He has been quoted and has published editorials in the nation’s top news outlets and law journals, including: The Associated Press, Newsweek, USA Today, The Guardian, The Hill, The New York Times, New York Daily News, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Law360, The Daily Business Review, The Epoch Times, The Herald (Sharon), The Palm Beach Post, PENN Live, Politico, Salon.com, SunSentinel (Ft. Lauderdale), Tampa Bay Times, among others. He also appears as an expert in the award-winning documentary film, Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice.
In 2004, he broke his decades-long public silence about his status as a child sex abuse survivor in order to help other survivors. That year, he testified about his past before the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee, starting what became a six-year crusade to repeal all statutes of limitation for civil and criminal prosecution of child sexual battery. Supported by a grassroots organization of some 200 survivors that he led as the chair of the political committee, Protect Our Kids First, Inc., his precedent-setting strategy worked to compel the Florida Legislature to ensure that never again would a child in Florida be turned away from any court due to the passage of time.
Mr. Dolce has achieved significant victories for his clients in civil and criminal courts. He has assisted prosecutors in securing convictions against multiple sex criminals. He has represented clients in “impact litigation” against institutions, from schools to group homes, which have changed their policies and practices as a result to improve child safety. He has also recovered millions of dollars in damages for clients, including a $19.2 million jury verdict in 2009, which was ranked by The National Law Journal’s “Verdict Search” as one of the top 100 verdicts nationwide for the year.
Currently, Mr. Dolce is litigating the following notable matters:
- Garrett v. University of South Florida Board of Trustees (M.D. Fla): Mr. Dolce represents a University of South Florida doctoral candidate, who alleges she is the victim of rape by a fellow student and that the university failed to protect her against her assailant after she disclosed the rape to university authorities, while actively empowering her assailant. After originally not wanting to draw attention to her victimization, Ms. Garrett courageously chose to share her story with the regional media, including Tampa Bay Times, as a means to help other victims.
Mr. Dolce’s recent successes include:
- Trahan v. Mulholland (Cir. Crt., Alachua Cty., Fla.): In August 2018, after a week-long trial, a jury awarded Ms. Trahan, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, $4.6 million in damages for more than a decade of sexual abuse perpetrated by her father, a prominent Central Florida businessman. The jury also found her mother negligent in failing to use reasonable care to protect her from the abuse.
- Doe v. Unnamed Institution: In November 2017, Mr. Dolce successfully settled a matter, prior to filing a lawsuit in court, on behalf of a client who survived a sexual assault in a medical setting. The $800,000 settlement and outcome for his client was life-altering and life-sustaining, as she had profoundly struggled with suicidal behaviors and needed expensive residential treatment due to her trauma.
- Jane Doe v. Seagate Hotel and Spa (Cir. Crt., Palm Beach Cty., Fla.): Mr. Dolce successfully represented an adult against a hotel for negligence, asserting that she was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist, who had been discharged just two months earlier by his prior employer for sexually assaulting a guest.
- Doe v. Doe (Cir. Crt., Norfolk Cty., Va.): In October 2017, Mr. Dolce successfully settled a survivor of child sexual abuse lawsuit in Virginia for $880,000 – more than 40 years after the abuse occurred –on behalf of a 49-year-old south Florida resident, whose repressed memories of traumatic sexual abuse began to surface two years earlier, causing him to relive the painful experiences.
- Jane Doe v. Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches (Cir. Crt., Polk Cty., Fla): Mr. Dolce represented 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. (Cir. Crt., Leon Cty., Fla.): Mr. Dolce represented adult survivors in three related lawsuits, asserting child physical and sexual abuse at a licensed therapeutic group home perpetrated by several staff members.
- Hollins v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Cir. Crt., Leon Cty., Fla.): 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. (Cir. Crt, Duval Cty., Fla.): 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 (Cir. Crt., St. Lucie Cty., Fla): 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.
Mr. Dolce’s work has been cited across the nation by law professors and state Supreme Court judges, garnering him national recognition and awards from both attorneys and crime victim advocates, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, the Florida Justice Association, The Best Lawyers in America for Personal Injury Litigation.
He recently served on the board of directors of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.
Mr. Dolce graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Lynn University and received his J.D. from Stetson University, which awarded him at graduation the Walter Mann Award for leadership in the legal profession and the Victor O. Wehle Award for outstanding trial advocacy.