June 4, 2023


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Law firm asks judge to allow $50 mln lawsuit against Erika Girardi, others

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Erika Jayne attends the Elton John Aids Foundation Academy Awards viewing party at West Hollywood Park in West Hollywood, California, U.S., March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Aude Guerrucci

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  • Edelson firm struck deal with ex-clients of Tom Girardi
  • Draft lawsuit presented to judge names “Real Housewives” star Erika Jayne Girardi

Chicago plaintiffs firm Edelson PC on Tuesday said it was preparing to file a new $50 million lawsuit against reality TV star Erika Jayne Girardi, calling her the “frontwoman” for a criminal conspiracy that was run out of her husband Tom Girardi’s law firm.

Edelson disclosed its draft complaint against Erika Girardi and others as part of a proposal it filed in Chicago federal court: The firm and its insurer would pay the families of the victims of the 2018 Lion Air crash who never received settlement funds from Girardi Keese, Tom Girardi’s now-defunct law firm.

Edelson in December 2020 accused the Girardis of using $2 million in settlement money meant for the families of four victims of the 2018 Lion Air crash to bankroll a “glitz-and-glam” Hollywood lifestyle. The proposal Edelson presented to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin includes an agreement with victims’ families to pay them at least $2 million.

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In exchange, the families would assign their claims to Edelson to “pursue those responsible.” Edelson would file its lawsuit in the District Court of Northern California.

“It allows us to go directly after the fraudulent scheme,” Jay Edelson, founder and CEO of Edelson, said of the agreement.

The filing of the lawsuit is contingent on Durkin approving the firm’s proposal, Edelson said. He said he did not know when Durkin would rule, noting that Lira and Griffin, who are also parties to the Lion Air crash litigation, might object.

The draft complaint alleges that Girardi Keese “was little more than a criminal enterprise, disguised as a law firm.” With more than $100 million stolen from clients, co-counsel, vendors and others, the firm was “the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiffs’ law,” it says.

The draft complaint names Erika Girardi and her company EJ Global LLC as defendants, as well as David Lira and Keith Griffin, two former Girardi Keese lawyers, and others.

Attorneys for Girardi and Griffin did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Edith Matthai, a Los Angeles attorney for Lira, declined to comment.

Girardi’s attorney has said the reality star is “completely innocent” of related claims. Lira and Griffin have said in court filings Girardi Keese’s accounts were controlled by Girardi.

Lira and Griffin made “deals with co-counsel with full knowledge that they were never going to be paid,” Edelson alleged in its draft complaint. Girardi, who stars in the show “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” was the “frontwoman” who sold the operation to the rest of the world, Edelson alleged.

The complaint includes claims of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and receipt of stolen property. The Edelson firm said the draft is “subject to change but is a fair representation of the claims Edelson intends to bring.”

“It is a broadside attack on not just the firm but a subset of the plaintiffs bar,” Edelson said. Edelson has been critical of the class action system, calling it “broken.”

Tom Girardi and Girardi Keese are not named as defendants in the complaint. Both Girardi and his former firm have been forced into bankruptcy proceedings. Tom Girardi has not responded to allegations about the Lion Air crash funds, although attorneys for him have acknowledged the settlement funds in question were not distributed.

(Note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Jay Edelson and Edith Matthai.)

Read more:

Judge sanctions Tom Girardi and his firm over missing $2M, suggests criminal inquiry

Tom Girardi and reality star wife sued for alleged theft of Lion Air settlement funds

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