Insurer Tells Law Firm It's on Its Own
LAS VEGAS (CN) - A law firm employee's failed attempt to frame someone who sued a client doesn't merit coverage, an insurer claims in court.
American Economy Insurance sued the law firm of Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin, in Federal Court. They are the only parties to the complaint.
The insurer claims that that a former employee of Lipson, Neilson - who is now in jail - defamed Taha Abouramadan, who had sued his former employer for wrongful termination in July 2012.
Abouramadan's former employer hired Lipson, Neilson to defend it. The firm assigned the case to a team that included attorney Shannon Nordstrom and soon after hired Lawrence Craig McGriff as a legal assistant and receptionist, according to the complaint.
McGriff had access to the case files, and the insurer claims that "on Dec. 20, 2012, McGriff advised Nordstrom that an unidentified male had made multiple calls to Lipson Neilson asking about the type of vehicle that Nordstrom drove. McGriff also advised Nordstrom that the unidentified caller had also made threats to blow up the building if the caller was not provided with the requested information."
After police swept the law firm for a bomb, the insurer says, "Nordstrom and McGriff speculated to Metro officers that they suspected Abouramadan was behind the phone calls. Thereafter, Nordstrom began receiving threatening phone calls and text messages. Some of the threatening text messages indicated that the sender intended on killing Abouramadan's former employer.
"Metro officers later arrested Abouramadan in connection with the threatening calls and text messages.
"Abouramadan remained in custody through January 4, 2013, until he was released and exonerated.
"After additional investigation, it was discovered that McGriff - and not Abouramadan - was actually behind the threatening phone calls and text messages.
"McGriff pled guilty to charges of aggravated stalking and intimidating a public officer. He is currently serving a minimum of 48 months," according to the complaint.
Abouramadan sued Lipson, Neilson for "false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, respondeat superior, negligent hiring and supervision and negligence," according to the insurance company's lawsuit.
The insurer claims that the law firm's policy protects it only from accidents and occurrences and must involve an actual personal injury or property damage. McGriff's effort to frame Abouramadan was not an accident, and there were no personal injuries or property damage, the insurer says.
It seeks declaratory relief, and costs.
It is represented by Amy M. Samberg with Snell & Wilmer.