Since 1985, Chip Merlin has served as a plaintiff’s attorney with a focus on commercial & residential property insurance claim disputes and bad faith insurance litigation. Chip is a noted national authority on insurance bad faith. He has lectured to national trade groups and also published a number of papers and articles for organizations such as The American Association for Justice, The Florida Justice Association, The Windstorm Insurance Network, and Trial Magazine.
As Founder and President of Merlin Law Group, Chip has dedicated his practice to the representation and advocacy of insurance policyholders in disputes with insurance companies nationwide.
Chip served as Chair for the Bad Faith Insurance Litigation Group as well as Secretary for the Fire and Property Insurance Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). He was also Vice-Chair for the Subcommittee on Property Insurance Law for the American Bar Association.
Keona Williams, Chief Operating Officer
Keona Williams is Merlin Law Group’s Chief Operating Officer. She manages the overall day-to-day administrative functions of the firm ensuring the attorneys have the support, information and resources needed to perform effectively. Keona is also responsible for the human resources administration of Merlin Law Group including recruitment, hiring, payroll, benefits, staff workflow monitoring, special event planning and local strategic and tactical planning. Keona also oversees office operations, facilities management, information systems, and related support functions.
As the Chief Operating Officer, she identifies and plans for the changing needs of the firm to ensure efficient operation of its offices. Keona has her Master of Business Administration, Concentration: Human Resources.
Craig Kubiak, Esq., Managing Attorney
As Managing Attorney, Craig Kubiak participates in Merlin Law Group’s most complex legal cases and projects, provides litigation and appellate support, and gives guidance to the attorneys—overseeing and ensuring the quality of the legal work conducted. He coordinates and supervises the attorneys of the firm, and participates in law office operations including case assignment, hiring, supervision and professional development of the firm’s attorneys. As the former head of the Merlin Law Group trial division, Craig routinely strategizes and collaborates with the Firm attorneys on various litigation and trial issues.
Craig directs the attorneys and their legal staff in the effective and efficient use of resources while representing the client. He assures that Merlin Law Group’s legal services are in compliance with professional standards, as well as state and federal regulatory requirements. Craig provides advice and guidance to the Firm attorneys on all matters of procedure, practice, and policy. He provides administrative and technical oversight for attorney activities and coordinates with other internal staff and external entities and organizations.
Michael N. Poli, Esq., West Coast Managing Attorney
Mr. Polo graduated from Arizona State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration then continued to Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law where he received his law degree. Michael worked with the Arizona State Law Journal as a Comment Editor and Symposium Editor from 1979-1980. He also was a law clerk to the Honorable William A. Holohan, Supreme Court of Arizona from 1980-1981. Mr. Poli’s other areas of work have included civil trial law, appellate litigation, banking and creditors rights, insurance litigation, insurance coverage, and insurance bad faith. Mr. Poli is well respected by his peers, as shown by his AV Preeminent rating through Martindale-Hubbell.
Michael Duffy, Managing Litigation Attorney
Michael “Mike” Duffy is a member of the Illinois Society of Trial Lawyers, an invitation-only organization. He has litigated in 44 states and tried cases in 19 states in federal and state courthouses. Throughout his career as a policyholder advocate, Mike has spoken at the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, as well as National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and the Windstorm Conference.
Additionally, Mike has also spoken at the University of Wisconsin Engineering Extension on experts-preparation and examining, insurance litigation, trial practice, mold, construction product litigation, construction defect, and water intrusion/building envelope issues. He has spoken at the American Association for Justice on insurance and mold issues and has been an AAJ section leader. Mike has also trained individuals on how to be effective expert witnesses. He has spoken extensively on the prosecution of property claims on behalf of insureds due to delay, underpayment, or denial. Finally, he has given presentations to roofers, contractors, adjusters, and attorneys regarding wind and hailstorm insurance issues.
Mike began practicing in the early 1980s at a nationally known insurance defense firm, where he became a partner in 1986 and a Firm Director in 1996. While at this firm, he obtained multiple defense verdicts on behalf of the auto and construction product industries throughout the country. He also obtained multiple defense verdicts across the United States on cases involving construction defect, business and commercial disputes, coverage, and negligence. He garnered notoriety for several defense verdicts involving catastrophic personal injuries as a result of truck tire and wheel mounting explosions.
In 2002, Mike became a partner in a nationally recognized plaintiff firm specializing in the representation of underpaid and denied individual and corporate policyholders throughout the country. He tried multiple cases on behalf of insureds across the country involving windstorm, hail, hurricane, fire, water, and vandalism losses. He has obtained several multi-million dollar verdicts for wronged insureds. In addition, Mike was one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to develop property and injury mold litigation against insurance companies and other entities; he worked on some of the first mold trials in the country.
Mike has been consistently AV Preeminent rated by Martindale Hubbell, the highest such ranking available. He has also been named a “leading lawyer” and a “super lawyer” for years and continues to be a dominant and well-respected attorney.
Mary Fortson, Of Counsel
Mary Fortson spent most of her legal career at Merlin Law Group in the role of managing attorney, overseeing and supervising the firm’s legal work and working closely with each of the attorneys. During those years, the firm grew from a handful of lawyers with a single office in Tampa, to a nationwide firm of over 40 attorneys with offices coast to coast. She also worked closely with Chip Merlin on his more complicated cases and helped ensure that the firm’s standards for ethics and professionalism were of the highest caliber.
She stepped down from the managing attorney role in January 2017, and currently works in an of counsel capacity, as a part of the firm’s overall management team. Mary continues to provide guidance to the firm’s attorneys on matters of procedure, practice, and policy. She assists the firm’s attorneys with problem-solving and offers advice in matters involving ethics and risk management. She also provides strategic litigation support and appellate advice for the firm’s most complex cases and legal briefings
Brooke Maynard, Chief Marketing Officer
Brooke Maynard is the Chief Marketing Officer and is responsible for the firm’s strategic growth and attorney development. She brings a unique and varied background in marketing and communications, which transforms into progressive initiatives to strengthen the brand, expand the firm’s digital transformation, and create a culture of success and innovation. Some of the programs she handles are digital strategy, event management, attorney coaching, and tactical marketing plans through business development.
In previous roles, Brooke has handled multi-million dollar global campaigns and managed new market entry for restaurant and retail establishments entering the Florida market. Additionally, she has served as a publicity liaison to national and international media outlets, secured television segments with The Today Show, the History Channel, and ESPN, and been recognized as a top producer in the technology and software industries.
On a personal note, Brooke enjoys watching college football, spending time with her family, and trying out new epicurean restaurants throughout Florida.
Marcia Knetzke, Finance Manager
Marcia Gaalswijk-Knetzke is Merlin Law Group’s Finance Manager across all locations. She manages the firm’s finance functions, including financial recordkeeping, reporting and analysis, budgets, and forecasts. She also handles Merlin Law Group’s trust accounts, which include deposits, payments, and settlements, as well as the accounts payable department, which manages vendor invoices, payments, and attorney expenses. Marcia continues to develop solutions for financial accuracy, transparency, and technology to aid the firm’s daily operations and long-term financial strength.
Ruck P. DeMinico, Esq., Knowledge Manager
Ruck DeMinico manages all aspects of Merlin Law Group’s Document Management System, legal library, and the informational operations of the firm. He ensures that all legal research and supporting documentation associated with current and previously litigated cases are accurately maintained, cataloged, updated, and accessible to the firm’s attorneys and designated staff personnel.
As the firm’s Knowledge Manager, Ruck performs a critical role in researching, gathering, and disseminating legal information, such as trends, case law, and past legislation, to attorneys throughout the firm. He is the primary resource for attorney reference information. He also maintains and edits Merlin Law Group blogs. Ruck has his Juris Doctorate and Master of Library Science.
Marketing and Business Development
Olivia Antognoli, Business Development Manager
Olivia began her journey as a policyholder advocate by starting as a licensed public adjuster in Colorado. This background has helped her understand the intricate issues that public adjusters are challenged with in the field, as well as the obstacles that face many policyholders when navigating through the claims process. Olivia also worked as a commercial property field adjuster for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company where she learned the ins and outs of the insurance claims process.
Today at Merlin Law Group she works with attorneys, public adjusters, contractors, and policyholders to fight for the fair payment of claims. She credits her time as a Division I athlete with instilling the values of teamwork, dedication, execution, and leadership.