LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Quinn Emanuel law firm and two of its partners sued the estate of high-profile attorney Hillel Chodos, claiming the famous litigator crossed the line in one of the final cases of his career.
Chodos handled more than 1,000 cases in his career before he died at 81 on May 27, 2015, according to his obituary in the Los Angeles. He was one of the highest-paid attorneys in Los Angeles, representing celebrities and politicians. A brilliant litigator, he earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Chicago when he was 16 before studying law.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and its attorneys Steven Madison and Michael Lifrak sued Chodos' estate and its executor, Rafael Chodos, on April 22 in Superior Court.
The complaint stems from a case that began in 2009, when Chodos was representing Karen Christiansen in a lawsuit against the Beverly Hills Unified School District, represented by Quinn Emanuel.
Christiansen was the school district's director of planning and facilities in 2008, when a company she had created was awarded a fat contract to oversee construction projects. The contract was terminated a year later for and alleged conflict of interest. Christiansen and her company, Strategic Concepts LLC, sued.
While that suit was pending, Christiansen was charged with a crime for her conduct. A jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2011.
The conviction was overturned on appeal in 2013 and Chodos filed a complaint on behalf of Christiansen against Quinn Emanuel and the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education, alleging malicious prosecution, fraud and corruption.
It was dismissed, and Chodos appealed. On Jan. 8 this year, after Chodos had died, the Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court ruling and dismissal of the malicious prosecution case, finding that Chodos' charge was itself a malicious prosecution that "alleged none of the necessary elements to state a cause of action for fraud."
According Quinn Emanuel's new complaint, Chodos knew he had no case. In fact, Quinn Emanuel says, Chodos told a fellow attorney that the sole purpose was to prevent Quinn Emanuel from continuing to represent the school district, giving him an advantage. And it worked. In May 2014, the school district changed counsel "primarily due to the increased costs incurred in connection with the malicious prosecution case," the complaint states.
Quinn Emanuel says this was a common tactic of Chodos, and cited a number of other cases where he allegedly did the same thing.
"Mr. Chodos' actions caused severe damage to the plaintiffs (who) lost a client and was forced to defend itself in a bogus case," the complaint states. Attorneys Madison and Lifrak, who were sued personally, "had their personal and professional lives turned upside down. ... Although Mr. Chodos in now deceased, his estate should be compelled to pay for his tortious actions," the complaint states.
Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel seeks damages of $685,987. Madison wants $2 million and Lifrak $1 million, all for malicious prosecution.
All are representing themselves and did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Chodos was controversial at times. In 2014, he made news by charging Navabeh Borman $7.8 million, at $5,000 per hour, in her divorce settlement with businessman Burton Borman. She sued and the fees were reduced to $1,000 per hour.
His other high-profile cases included representing Playboy Playmate Kimberly Conrad in her divorce from Hugh Hefner, and representing Christie and David Bren, children of billionaire Donald Bren, in their quest for child support. He also represented Susan Hughes, the third wife of Herbalife founder Mark Hughes, who challenged the millions of dollars in legal bills attorneys were charging to oversee her son's $400 million trust.
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