Erika Girardi and Others Are Sued by a Law Firm for Allegedly Stealing Client Money
In order to recover damages after covering settlement payments owed to Girardi’s former clients in the litigation surrounding the 2018 Lion Air crash, the plaintiffs’ law firm Edelson has filed a lawsuit against attorney Tom Girardi’s estranged wife and former employees of Girardi’s law firm.
After an Illinois judge in April approved a plan for Edelson to compensate five families in the Lion Air case with at least $2 million, the lawsuit was filed late on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.
Erika Jayne Girardi, her company EJ Global, and former Girardi Keese attorneys David Lira and Keith Griffin are named in a new lawsuit alleging that the Girardis stole settlement money intended for clients and used it to finance their extravagant lifestyle.
Erika Girardi’s attorney claimed he had not yet seen the complaint. She has consistently refuted the charges.
Additionally named as defendants in the lawsuit are litigation funding company California Attorney Lending II, former Girardi Keese chief financial officer Chris Kamon, and legal advisor George Hatcher. In addition to several other defendants and their attorneys failing to respond right away to requests for comment, Kamon was not reachable.
California Attorney Lending II’s attorney, William F. Savino, stated that his client “vigorously” refutes Edelson’s assertions, including that its founder made sure the business received a “first cut” of the settlement money in the Lion Air case.
The law firm feels “confident in our ability to prove to a jury that the Girardi Keese firm was acting as a criminal enterprise,” Edelson founder Jay Edelson stated in an email.
“We hope this case helps answer some larger questions: How did the firm get away with it for so many years? Why has the California bar been absent? And how many other people were involved?” he stated.
The complaint asks for $55 million in exemplary or punitive damages as well as additional monetary losses that are not mentioned in the court document.
The families of the Lion Air crash victims, who had been represented by Tom Girardi, reassigned their claims to the Edelson firm as part of the agreement approved in federal court in Illinois. Any damages obtained through the new lawsuit will first pay the legal costs of the Chicago-based Wisner Law Firm, which is currently defending the interests of the five families, as well as reimburse Edelson and its insurer. Edelson and the families will each receive a portion of any money that is left over.
Both Tom Girardi and Girardi Keese are involved in bankruptcy proceedings, but they are not named in the complaint. Tom Girardi hasn’t responded to claims that the Lion Air settlement money was mishandled, but his lawyers have admitted that it wasn’t distributed. Tom Girardi couldn’t be reached right away for comment.
Girardi was recently barred from practicing law in California and ordered to pay over $2 million in restitution, including to the kids of four of the plaintiffs from the Lion Air lawsuit.
The case is Edelson PC vs. Lira, et al in the Northern District of California, No. 22-cv-3977.
Information from Reuters was used in this report