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From Substitute Teacher to Top Litigator: Ricardo Martinez-Cid Talks Hard Work, NFL Concussions

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Ricardo Martinez-Cid has handled high-stakes litigation as a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami.

Ricardo Martinez-Cid

No one should doubt Ricardo Martinez-Cid’s work ethic.

As a senior pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Miami, he was taking classes Tuesdays and Thursdays, working as a substitute teacher on other weekdays and working for a law firm at night making copies and sending faxes.

This was while he and his wife, Mariela Martinez-Cid, were married, living independently from their parents and raising their first-born, Ricardo.

Martinez-Cid, now a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami, looks back at this time with fondness. This wasn’t an obstacle he had to overcome or a tough time he had to get through.

“They were great times. I do not see those as dark days. I enjoyed my schooling days,” he said. ”We’ve always been a couple that has a lot going on and can manage a lot of responsibilities and never been afraid of hard work.”

His embrace of hard work has worked well for him professionally as a litigator representing clients in wrongful death, personal injury and products liability cases.

Martinez-Cid was part of the law firm’s team that was one of the first to sue the National Football League on behalf of former players alleging the league hid what it knew about players’ brain injuries and the long-term consequences.

Thousands of former players filed hundreds of lawsuits across the U.S., and they were consolidated before U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia. Martinez-Cid along with Podhurst litigator Steven Marks were appointed to the plaintiffs executive committee.

In 2015, a 65-year settlement that could cost the NFL $1 billion was approved with no admission of wrongdoing by the NFL.

NOTABLE CASES

For Martinez-Cid, this was gratifying on two fronts.

“Not only were we able to help thousands of former NFL players get the medical screening and damages for what they have gone through but there’s also been a huge educational component, and the public is more aware, and it’s led to changes in the game,” he said. “Particularly what I am proud of is now at the young level at Pop Warner and high school football level that knowledge has trickled down, and everybody understands how critically important it is to avoid head injuries.”

Some changes in the game are how to tackle properly to avoid head injuries and to take a player out of a game if he has suffered a head injury, Martinez-Cid said.

He researched the case for more than a year before opting to represent former players. At the time the lawsuits were filed, there was pushback.

“I remember people just hearing about it used to think very negatively about the players who were bringing suit and just (say), ‘Oh well they knew what they were getting into. It’s just going to worsen the game because we like the big collisions,’ ” Martinez-Cid said.

While chronic traumatic encephalopathy has been linked to football injuries, other medical problems such as early onset Alzheimer’s are possible, Martinez-Cid said.

“ It’s such a monumental task to take on the National Football League and such a difficult case,” he said.

Previous cases prepared him for this one.

He represented more than 70 families who lost loved ones in the TAM Airlines, now LATAM Airlines Brasil, crash in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July 2007.

Martinez-Cid sued TAM and Airbus in federal court and, while the case with the airline was resolved, the Airbus segment was moved to court in Brazil.

That could have stopped the attorneys going after the manufacturer.

“When courts here dismiss cases in favor of foreign jurisdiction … the vast majority of these cases never get filed again and the folks never get justice. In this case we actually presented the cases in Brazil, and we had to fight all these years and finally resolved it this last year,” said Martinez-Cid.

Airbus paid $9.1 million to victims’ relatives.

During the 10-year case and other cases he handled in Brazil, Martinez-Cid became fluent in Portuguese in addition to his Spanish fluency.

“It was really in traveling over there and meeting with the families and gathering evidence that I became fluent,” he said.

While the TAM and NFL are some of his high-profile cases, Martinez-Cid said it’s not about how much media attention a case gets.

“I can feel just as proud representing an individual who has been seriously hurt,” Martinez-Cid said. “It will never get the publicity that the NFL gets, but for that one family there’s no one more important case in the world.”

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY

If you think Martinez-Cid worked hard while in college, wait until you hear his father’s story.

His father, also Ricardo Martinez-Cid and a real estate attorney, graduated from Miami Dade College and the University of Florida with bachelor’s and law degrees, all in 3.5 years.

“He needed the work,” Martinez-Cid said.

Once the elder Martinez-Cid joined a South Florida law firm, he still worked nights at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

As told by the younger Martinez-Cid, one night, his father’s law partners saw him at the Fontainebleau.

“The partners said, ‘How can he be working as a waiter? What if the clients of the firm would see him there? That would be bad.’ And he said, ‘Well, listen. It’s the high season at the Fontainebleau, so I make more here than I do at the law firm.’ ”

Indeed, Martinez-Cid said working multiple jobs when starting out isn’t uncommon in his family. It’s no extraordinary feat, he added.

“ I was always brought up to work hard,” he said.

Born: Hialeah, 1976 

Children: Ricardo, Marina and Santiago

Spouse: Mariela Martinez-Cid

Education: Yale Law School, J.D., 2000; University of Miami, B.A., 1997

Experience: Podhurst Orseck, 2002-present; Clerk to U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, 2001-2002; Associate, Steel Hector & Davis, 2000-2001

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