Who We Are


The DBA Law firm Garfinkel Schwartz represents civilian contractors who work anywhere in the world supporting the U.S. Government and Longshoremen who work the ports, docks, coasts, rivers and U.S. waterways.

We are the oldest DBA law firm in the United States. We have resolved tens of thousands of cases for our clients, who come from all over the world.


Garfinkel Schwartz is a compassionate resource for families and individuals who have been hurt or who have gotten sick while working for defense contractors or longshoremen. The Garfinkel/Schwartz family have helped injured workers for four (4) generations – Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Father and Sons.

Our incredibly skilled and compassionate staff are dedicated to providing our clients the right to receive excellent medical care and substantial compensation from their injuries. Additionally, we provide our clients with the latest medical information and assist our clients to obtain the best doctors to treat all their injuries.

Team of Lawyers

Our firm is recognized for our support of military veterans and their families.

Alan Garfinkel


Alan Garfinkel is an acclaimed attorney with nearly 35 years of experience specializing in insurance recovery. He has gained international recognition for his expertise in this field. With an exceptional team of attorneys, Alan has successfully resolved thousands of Defense Base Act Claims.

For over 80 years, Alan's family has represented military and civilian contractors. Alan’s two sons, their Grandfather and Great-Grandfather have won millions of dollars for their clients since the Defense Base Act was enacted on August 16, 1941.

Prominent news organizations such as CNN, NBC, FOX News, ABC, Newsweek, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, St. Pete Times, Houston Chronicle, El Sentinel, and Telemundo frequently seek Alan's extensive knowledge as an Insurance Recovery Expert.

Recognizing Alan’s expertise, LexisNexis, the world's largest legal publication & database appointed Alan as its National Property Damage Moderator. Alan has hosted over 100 webinars and dozens of academic presentations focusing on insurance claims.

Alan's client base is worldwide. Over the course of Alan’s extensive career, he has represented clients in Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America, the USA & the United Kingdom.

Alan was named an Insurance Coverage 'Super Lawyer' and recognized as one of the 'Best Attorneys in America'. Additionally, he has maintained the highest international rating for Legal Ability and Ethics for more than 20 years. Alan pursued his education at universities in Florida, Georgia, and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His exceptional reputation is further underscored by his 'AV Preeminent' rating from Martindale-Hubbell, an honor bestowed upon only the top 1% of lawyers.

Garfinkel Schwartz and its exceptional attorneys have earned numerous awards. On April 13, 2023, Garfinkel Schwartz law firm was awarded for its 'Outstanding Support of the United States Armed Forces Guard and Reserve Personnel' and was also recognized as a 'Patriotic Employer'.

Giselle Garcia


Giselle Garcia has been in the legal profession for more than 20 years. Giselle’s story is inspiring. She began working for Alan Garfinkel as his office assistant and put herself through college graduating with Honors with a degree in Legal Studies. She was then promoted to a legal assistant, then after further legal studies promoted to paralegal. Giselle then continued on to law school, having a newborn, raising a family, attending to a household, all while tirelessly helping clients, staff, and lawyers at Garfinkel Schwartz. Now, Giselle is a Partner- responsible for all the Attorneys and Staff at Garfinkel Schwartz.

Giselle brings the same passion, dedication, love and humility to our clients - fighting to make sure each one of Garfinkel Schwartz clients receives the best medical care and the most money possible.

Giselle has also given back to the community by volunteering her nights after work to the Coalition for the Homeless. Giselle is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. She has lectured extensively on DBA legal rights in South America. She continues to conduct educational seminars on DBA topics related to claims against insurance companies. Giselle handles cases all over the world for injured workers and against insurance companies.

Since beginning her career as a DBA Attorney, Giselle has handled and overseen Thousands of DBA cases - successfully obtaining millions of dollars for our clients!

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law, Doctor of Jurisprudence, 2016 University of Central Florida, Bachelor of Arts, Legal Studies, 2006

Brian Wiklendt


Brian is lead counsel for Garfinkel Schwartz, P.A. Brian has practiced complex insurance related law representing both Plaintiffs and Defendants for over 27 years. Throughout his extensive career, Brian has built a reputation for excellence and tireless advocacy on behalf of our clients. Brian’s commitment to justice and expertise in the law has assisted him in obtaining favorable outcomes for thousands of our clients.

Matthew “Matt” Rolla


Matt is a lawyer that exclusively works on Defense Base Act (DBA) and longshoreman cases. Garfinkel Schwartz clients are delighted and surprised by Matt’s friendliness - but our clients are never surprised by the great communication and terrific results Matt has delivered. Matt, like all the lawyers at Garfinkel Schwartz is humble, kind and loyal. Matt has no problem “getting his hands dirty” and working hard for his clients.

Matt can relate to many of our clients who have worked translating, truck driving, in security and in construction. Matt is very familiar with these clients because he worked those jobs. When a client gets hurt Matt works tirelessly to get the insurance company to pay for all medical bills and money owed to our clients.

Matt attended Notre Dame University, a famous Catholic University and graduated with Honors from Florida State College of Law. Matt began his legal career serving as an Assistant Public Defender in West Palm Beach, Florida. While there, he achieved a number of notable wins for his clients, including successfully challenging the constitutionality of a state law based on 1st Amendment grounds.

Matt has extensive international legal experience representing DBA clients all over the world and also living and working in the European Union. Matt is an excellent DBA Lawyer and works together with a big team of lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants at the oldest DBA and Law Firm- Garfinkel Schwartz.

Nydia Wallace


Nydia was raised in California. Her mother and father are Guatemalan immigrants. Her dad is a pastor who assists immigrants who migrated from South America to the United States. As a child, she developed a strong understanding of the challenges people faced when English was not their primary language. Nydia was inspired to become an attorney at a very young age. Her mother was going through an immigration proceeding and was hours away from being deported. Nydia was only 7 years old during this proceeding and felt incredibly distressed and helpless for her mother. Since this moment, Nydia developed an interest for amplifying the voice of the voiceless. During her youth, Nydia and her dad assisted the newly arriving immigrants find attorneys, shelter and food.

Nydia Wallace is now an attorney for the Law Firm of Garfinkel Schwartz. Prior to becoming a member of the Florida Bar in 2021, Nydia served as a civil litigation paralegal for 3 years. Nydia was also selected to intern with an Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Judge in the Juvenile Dependency Division, where she observed the judicial procedure of such cases. Subsequently, she represented clients in immigration proceedings at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and in Immigration Court. Nydia’s personal journey and involvement in our community has inspired her to provide hope to our clients who many times feel defeated, forgotten or abandoned. Nydia is hard working, responsive, detail-oriented and passionate about helping our clients.

Brandon Ward


Mr. Ward is a Full Time Attorney at Garfinkel Schwartz. Almost 20 years ago, Mr. Ward joined the United States Army immediately after college. Mr. Ward served two (2) tours of duty in Iraq, both times in the Baghdad area, and was stationed in Europe for four years. Upon discharge from Active Duty, Mr. Ward continues to this day as a drilling Reservist with the United States Army. Mr. Ward has been sent around the world in support of various missions.

Mr. Ward’s unique perspective regarding the sacrifices and challenges military members, and those who support military members, face in active war zones adds to Mr. Ward’s unique perspective regarding the sacrifices and challenges military members, and those who support military members, face in active war zones adds to the firm’s staunch advocacy on behalf of those wrongfully denied proper compensation for their injuries suffered in connection to such service.

While in law school, Mr. Ward petitioned the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of hearing disabled clients seeking appropriate communications technology accommodations in government institutions. Mr. Ward participated in three moot court competitions, earning him a spot on the Barrister’s Council. Additionally, he published an article in the Colorado Technology Law Journal proposing a statutory framework for resolving impending workforce displacements caused by automation technologies.

Before joining Garfinkel Schwartz, Mr. Ward practiced as a plaintiff-side employment attorney advocating for the civil and contractual rights of employees across Colorado. He also engaged insurers in support of employees’ short-term and long-term disability claims that arose during or as a result of their employment.

Mr. Ward is admitted to practice law in the State of Colorado and currently lives there with his wife of thirteen years, four children, and a Labrador Retriever named Benson.

Michael Lapine


Michael began his work in the legal profession almost 20 years ago working for Insurance Company lawyers in Detroit, Michigan. Michael excelled as an academic and served as a member of his law school’s prestigious Law Review.

Michael worked for many years as a litigation attorney in Chicago, Illinois. During this time, he was responsible for hundreds of client cases from start to settlement. Michael has handled serious legal matters for clients and is experienced with personal injury, construction defect cases, and other complex matters in litigation. Michael is familiar with all aspects of trial preparation and interestingly, coordinated and led the development of mass tort litigation, working with then Senator Barack Obama.

Michael’s respect and understanding of those who have served our country, and their families, is deep-rooted; having a Grandfather who served in World War II, a Brother-In-Law who served in Desert Storm a Father who served in the United States Peace Corp in Romania.

Michael’s extensive experience as a litigation attorney and deep-rooted commitment to those who have served ensures that he will work on your case with the level of passion, empathy and vigor deserving of your service.

John Marshall Law School, Doctor of Jurisprudence, 2004
Michigan State University, Political Science, 2000

Ronja Lugo Åkergren


Ronja is originally from Sweden. At the end of her education in international law, Ronja interned at an immigration law firm in Orlando. After observing how the attorneys positively impacted their clients’ lives, Ronja decided to move and pursue law school in the United States.

During law school, Ronja graduated at the top of her class and was recognized for her exceptional legal research and writing skills when she served as an editor for the Homeland and National Security Law Review and Thomas M. Cooley Law Review.

Ronja’s devotion to helping others was clearly shown when she became the President of a student organization that spread awareness about human trafficking and domestic violence. Ronja worked tirelessly to educate the public about the issues and volunteered to help survivors.

Ronja is incredibly compassionate, caring, and hard-working, and she will ensure that her clients feel comfortable and well-informed about the DBA process.

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Doctor of Jurisprudence, magna cum laude, 2023
Örebro Universitetet, Bachelor of Science in International Law, 2018

John Mallah, Esq.

Defense Base Act Lawyer

John Mallah is one of the most experienced Federal Trial lawyers in the United States. John has worked and consulted with Attorneys Alan Garfinkel & Giselle Garcia for nearly 20 years. John earned the prestigious “AV” Rating by Martindale Hubbell after an extensive peer review process. AV is the highest possible rating awarded to attorneys who have achieved & maintain the highest level of legal ability and integrity.

There is no one better in developing measurable firm goals and, communicating with people to meet those goals, while promoting an environment where our employees achieve their personal goals as well. John grew up in Miami Beach, Florida and earned his law degree from the University of Miami in 1984.

Rory Tufts

Executive Intake and Case Management Specialist

Rory Tufts is one of the most experienced legal executives in the United States with more than 40 years of legal experience. As Executive Intake and Case Management Specialist, Rory oversees all Garfinkel Schwartz Legal Assistants.

Prior to Rory’s employment with Garfinkel Schwartz, she worked for some of the largest insurance companies in the world and understands precisely how the insurance company attorneys work to deny and delay DBA insurance claims. Rory’s vast knowledge and understanding of insurance policies, claims processes and legal implications on the insurance company side brings a unique advantage to supporting our Defense Base Act clients. When you first call Garfinkel Schwartz, you may speak with Rory who will discuss your case and help identify medical benefits and money you or your family may be owed. In Rory, you will have another fighter to address and protect your rights and help get you money and medical care as quickly as possible.

Rory’s attention to detail, analytical mindset and ability to work well under pressure contribute greatly to the success of each case. Rory has been working for Garfinkel Schwartz for many years and is exceptional at providing efficient and effective support to all our attorneys and clients.


Paraprofessional Manager

After years of working directly with our DBA Clients and ensuring their legal papers are pristinely submitted, Cristina was promoted to Paraprofessional Manager at Garfinkel Schwartz. Cristina supervises most of the paralegals and legal assistants in the law firm to make sure our clients receive the medical care and money our clients are entitled to receive.

On her free time, Cristina enjoys traveling around the world and embraces the diverse cultures and cuisines she experiences along the way. Prior to beginning her employment in the legal field, Cristina focused her energy on studying and learning about human societies, religion and changes in development over time. Her studies concentrated on understanding human behavior and encouraged critical thinking skills that led Cristina in developing innovative problem-solving techniques. In 2017, Cristina earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology from the University of Central Florida. In 2017, Cristina began working as a legal assistant where she provided outstanding contributions to our legal teams with remarkable efficiency. In 2022, Cristina became a Florida Registered Paralegal and was promoted to a Paralegal. Cristina’s deep love for travel, combined with her education, strong communication, critical thinking and research skills help her provide specialized care for each client that is culture-sensitive. Her goal is to continue assisting each client at Garfinkel Schwartz receive the treatment and benefits deserved regardless of where our clients live around the world.

Dustin Denman

Firm Administrator

Dustin Denman has extensive experience in the legal field. He has established himself in our law firm’s deep rooted tradition - working hard, being humble and incredibly responsive to our clients. As a result, Dustin has earned multiple promotions within Garfinkel Schwartz. He has risen to senior management and is now our Law Firm Administrator. Dustin has almost 10 years experience with Garfinkel Schwartz and is responsible for ensuring our clients cases move quickly and our client’s needs are fully satisfied.


History and Heritage

The law firm is named for founder and attorney Alan Garfinkel, and in memoriam for deceased Longshore and Defense Base Act lawyer, John M. Schwartz and his father Sydney Schwartz.

John Schwartz and his father were Defense Base Act lawyers for more than 50 years. They represented injured workers and contractors around the world.

Alan Garfinkel and John M. Schwartz worked side by side for more than a dozen years. Together, they helped thousands of men and women working as overseas civilian contractors and longshoremen on U.S. Federal waterways who were denied DBA and Longshore Act compensation claims.

Brian Wiklendt and Giselle Garcia are Defense Base/Longshore Act lawyers and lead counsel for the firm. Schwartz’s grandsons while attending law school served as legal assistants and medical researchers working on the Garfinkel Schwartz team.

The Garfinkel-Schwartz families and law firm have a military service history that goes back more than 106 years, World War I with Alan Garfinkel’s grandfather, World War II with Alan’s Father and 3 uncles and Vietnam with John Schwartz. Currently, Garfinkel Schwartz has a lawyer that is in the Active Army Reserves and serves in the United States Military as a Lieutenant Colonel. Garfinkel Schwartz and our law firm family continue to devote their careers and lives in obtaining medical care and money for civilian contractors and longshoremen who get sick or injured on the job.

What Our Clients Say

Find out who receives our help. Read their stories, do they sound familiar?