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‘Real Housewives’ Star Erika Jayne Served with Multimillion-Dollar Federal Racketeering Lawsuit for Allegedly Pocketing Plane Crash Settlement Money

Erika Jayne attends the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards in Santa Monica, California, which were broadcast on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV.)

Erika Jayne attends the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards in Santa Monica, California, which were broadcast on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV.)

Erika Jayne, one of the stars of the Bravo series Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, was served with a copy of a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit when she arrived in Los Angeles from a stint in Hawaii, according to Page Six.

The lawsuit was filed July 6, according to court records obtained by Law&Crime.  It alleges that Jayne and her ex-husband, celebrity attorney Tom Girardi, pocketed millions of dollars from a settlement fund for the families of the victims of Lion Air Flight JT 610.  That flight crashed into the Java Sea in October 2018.  A total of 189 passengers and crew members died.

Jayne was formerly known as Erika Girardi during her 21-year marriage.  Girardi and his law firm, Girardi Keese, were portrayed in the film Erin Brockovich.  Jayne filed for divorce in November 2020, the Los Angles Times reported.  Tom Girardi lost his law license in March 2021 due to reported issues with dementia, Law&Crime previously noted; he was later disbarred in January 2022, the civil lawsuit says.

Now, Jayne is one of several named defendants in the lawsuit filed by Edelson PC, a Chicago law firm.  The lawsuit accuses Jayne of pocketing millions from Girardi Keese that should have been earmarked for accident victims.

The other named defendants in the case are EJ Global, LLC; David Lira (identified as both the son-in-law of Tom Girardi and as a former Girardi Keese partner); Keith Griffin (a former Girardi Keese attorney); Christopher Kamon (the former Chief Financial Officer of Girardi Keese); George Hatcher (described in the lawsuit as “a non-lawyer ‘consultant’ who was responsible for referring the families of air crash victims” to hire Girardi Keese); Wrongful Death Consultants, Inc.; Joseph DiNardo (the founder of California Attorney Lending II); and California Attorney Lending II (a corporate entity).

The lawsuit says Lira and Griffin allowed Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi to spend from law firm coffers “more than $14 million in exorbitant luxury items, food, and services.”

The lawsuit’s opening salvo reads accordingly:

From the outside, the Girardi Keese law firm appeared to be doing all the things that an ultra-successful, top-tier plaintiff’s law firm should do: represent injured clients in difficult cases, secure groundbreaking settlements, and win headline-grabbing trial victories. The firm’s founder and namesake, Thomas Girardi (“Tom”), was a celebrity both inside and outside the courtroom, and was viewed by many as perhaps the most prominent plaintiff’s lawyer in the country. But inside the firm’s doors, the story was completely different. As the layers have been pulled back more and more each day with the pending bankruptcies of Girardi Keese and Tom, and the torrent of claims and investigations that came in the wake of the firm’s collapse, the real story is one that seems like a tale out of a John Grisham novel: Girardi Keese was little more than a criminal enterprise, disguised as a law firm.

Indeed, the Girardi Keese firm operated what we now know was the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiffs’ law. All told, it stole more than $100 million dollars from the firm’s clients, co-counsel, vendors, and many others unfortunate enough to do business with the firm.

Again, from the the lawsuit:

In reality, the firm was siphoning off millions to fund Tom’s and his wife Erika’s all-consuming need to spend—funding a lifestyle so lavish that Erika was a cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And the couple certainly played and the fact that Tom was a wealthy, powerful attorney who wooed celebrities, judges, and politicians alike. But that money was not earned by the firm or by Tom. It was stolen: from co-counsel, from vendors with long overdue bills, and—by far the most unforgiveable [sic] for an attorney—from the firm’s own injured clients.

The basic scheme operated like this: when a new opportunity for cases came in, the firm would tap into its network of non-lawyers, sometimes called “case runners,” to find injured clients. These individuals were paid with cash for getting clients to hire the firm (which is illegal) and would also take a cut of any eventual recovery for the client (which is also illegal). As just one example, Defendant George Hatcher, a non-lawyer “consultant” who was responsible for referring the families of air crash victims, got hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that his referrals to Girardi were “exclusive,” along with a similarly-illegal percentage of whatever the client eventually got.

“Erika acted as the ‘frontwoman’ of the operation, selling to the world (including unsuspecting clients) that Girardi Keese was successful,” the lawsuit continued. It describes the firm’s operating strategy as “similar to a Ponzi scheme, but much worse” — and nothing like the “competent legal representation” that the firm’s clients believed they had purchased.

“[W]hen Girardi Keese clients agreed to settle their cases, the money that belonged to them was exclusively theirs and should only ever have been held briefly in trust before being immediately disbursed,” the lawsuit says. “Not a single cent of a client’s money should ever have been funneled to a Girardi Keese operating account, to the firm’s payroll, to a lender, or to an American Express bill.”

The lawsuit alleges that Girardi even “reportedly went so far as to bribe” a California bar investigator and that the Bar refused to seriously investigate the celebrity attorney or his firm — in part because Girardi “deployed his wealth and celebrity status to entertain State Bar officials at lavish parties.”  It says Lira and Griffin “flatly lied” during a contempt hearing connected to the underlying Lion Air case and that Jayne also shares considerable blame:

To this day, Erika uses her significant public platform to lie about her own involvement, and to try to assist Tom and the others in getting away with it. Erika continuously doubles down in her efforts to mislead the public, including her recent jaw-dropping claim on Housewives that the victims whose money Tom stole might be lying about the theft—despite the findings of a federal judge to the contrary. Evidently in response to a publicly-filed draft version of this Complaint, Erika was proud of allegations that she used Tom’s tactics, taking it as a “badge of honor.”

The Real Housewives franchise also fueled the greed, the lawsuit alleges:

Girardi Keese firm was not actually making enough money to support Tom and Erika’s outrageous lifestyle. This only worsened as Erika became a fixture on the Housewives show, which required the two to perform their wealth sufficient to keep Erika in the national limelight for seasons at a time. The problem though, was that Tom and Erika’s lifestyle began to demand even more funds.

The lawsuit makes light of the “supposed traumatic brain injury” allegedly suffered by Tom Girardi and suggests Jayne was fabricating at least portions of the account that led to it.  It alleges that Jayne “leverage[d] the scandal” involving the air crash victims’ fund “to further her career and stay relevant in the tabloids.”

“Erika is relishing the attention, even as she is being criticized for her lack of sympathy for the victims of the Enterprise whose money she flaunted on national television as her own,” the voluminous filings allege.

The civil suit alleges ten causes of action:  (1) racketeering (against Lira, Griffin, Kamon, and Hatcher); (2) conspiracy to commit racketeering (as to Lira, Griffin, Kamon, Hatcher, Wrongful Death Consultants, EJ Global, and Jayne); (3) receipt of stolen property (Griffin, Lira, Kamon, Hatcher, Wrongful Death Consultants, Jayne, and EJ Global); (4) aiding and abetting concealment of stolen property (Griffin, Lira, Kamon, Hatcher, and Wrongful Death Consultants); (5) money had and received (California Attorney Lending and DiNardo); (6) conversion (Kamon, Griffin, Lira, Hatcher, and Wrongful Death Consultants); (7) unlawful and unfair business practice (California Attorney Lending, Lira, and Griffin); (8) consumers legal remedies act (against California Attorney Lending, Griffin, and Lira); (9) deceit (Griffin and Lira); and (10) deceit (Griffin).

Some of the dollar amounts of the alleged theft from the Lion Air clients are redacted. However, the sum total the plaintiffs are seeking is laid bare in the document:  “Plaintiff seeks treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages, for an amount in excess of $50 million.”

Elsewhere, the document says the punitive damages award should be “no less than $55 million” and that other damages (actual, treble, restitution, attorneys’ fees, costs, interest, etc.) should be calculated on top of that number.

One of Jayne’s representatives refused to comment on the lawsuit, Page Six reported.

Read the full 65-page complaint below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.