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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Untimely Filing Thwarts Man’s Claim to $1.1M

(CN) - An investigator waited too long to file unjust enrichment claims against attorneys he allegedly helped land a $111 million settlement for victims of a 1986 Berlin nightclub bombing, the D.C. Circuit ruled.

Libya paid victims of the LaBelle discotheque bombing $111 million in 2008 to settle a lawsuit over its responsibility for the attack.

The victims' lawyers -- Steven Perles, Thomas Fay, and Paul Schwarz -- received nearly $36 million for their work in the case, known as the Beecham case.

But Michael Bregman, a retired federal agent who allegedly provided investigative services to the lawyers, was paid nothing. He said Perles had promised him $100,000 for his services, plus a $1 million bonus if the case was successful.

Despite numerous requests, Bregman says he never received a written contract regarding his compensation.

Perles' lawyer responded with a letter stating that "there is no basis whatsoever for Mr. Bregman's claim to any of the settlement proceeds from the LaBelle case."

The letter further asserted that Bregman had performed no work on the case and was essentially trying to extort the attorneys.

Bregman sued the attorneys on Oct. 26, 2011.

A federal judge dismissed his unjust enrichment claim, because it was filed more than three years after the lawyers refused his request for payment on Sept. 25, 2008.

Bregman appealed, arguing that his claim did not begin accruing until the attorneys received payment from the settlement on Nov. 17, 2008.

The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal on Tuesday.

"Although Bregman's right to recover on his contractual claim - still pending in district court - may turn on the success of the Beecham litigation, his right of recovery on his unjust enrichment claim is based on the services he performed," Judge Karen Henderson wrote for the three-judge panel.

"As of June 2004, he had enriched Perles, Fay and Schwarz by performing those services. The enrichment became unjust on September 25, 2008, when they refused his request for compensation. Bregman's claim therefore accrued on that date, and, accordingly, it is untimely."

Bregman's two contract claims against Perles are still pending in district court.

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