Erika Jayne Just Won A $5 Million Lawsuit, But There's More To Come

Erika Jayne Just Won A $5 Million Lawsuit, But There's More To Come
·24 min read

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  • The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Girardi (a.k.a. Erika Jayne) has been dealing a lot of legal drama following the 2020 announcement that she and her husband Tom Girardi were starting divorce proceedings.

  • On July 22, 2022, a video circulated online showing what looked like Erika getting served with a $50 million racketeering lawsuit related to her husband's business dealings.

  • Erika recently won a major court battle, where a judge ruled she had no knowledge of Tom’s alleged crimes.

Things have not been going smoothly since Erika and Tom Girardi announced their divorce back in 2020. In fact, shortly after announcing their separation, a lawsuit was filed claiming that the divorce was meant to distract from Tom's alleged attempts to embezzle money from the "widows and orphans" of victims of the 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash, per Insider. And Erika has not escaped unscathed. She's wrapped up in all the legal drama now, too.

Erika has been involved in several lawsuits at this point, including a recent $50 million racketeering suit that she was just reportedly served on July 22 after Erika arrived home from a trip to Hawaii, per Page Six. (Racketeering, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a crime where a person extorts money from someone through a threat or force.) So, on the legal front, things are looking pretty intense right now.

However, Erika did just win a major $5 million fraud lawsuit—but more on that in a second.

First, a little background: Despite their 32-year age difference, Erika (a.k.a. Erika Jayne) and Tom seemed pretty happy together on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so it was a shock to fans (and her co-stars) when the couple announced they were divorcing after more than 20 years of marriage in November 2020.

"After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi," the reality TV personality said in a statement to Us Weekly at the time. "This is not a step taken lightly or easily...I request others give us that privacy as well."

While the two still aren’t officially divorced—Erika told Entertainment Tonight that divorcing Tom is “at the bottom” of her priority list—a lot has happened since then.

So, what happened and how did Erika end up getting served legal papers in an airport? Here’s what you need to know about the couple’s ongoing divorce and legal drama:

Erika and Tom got married in 1999.

Tom met Erika when she was working at Chasen’s restaurant in Los Angeles. "After a year of working in the restaurant, one night I decided to slip Tom my telephone number," she wrote in her 2018 memoir, Pretty Mess.

Tom then reached out to Erika through his secretary. "I told her, 'Tell Mr. Girardi if he wants to take me out on a date, he needs to call me himself and ask me and give me enough time to prepare,'" Erika said in her book. "You know how men are, especially if they are successful. They expect you to drop everything right away. That’s not how I work, I don’t care who you are."

The couple got married six months later.

Erika filed for divorce in November 2020.

This, according to Us Weekly, who reported that Erika filed a few days before she confirmed that her marriage was over. And, The New York Times added that Erika filed just weeks after filming for season 11 had started.

Photo credit: Steve Eichner
Photo credit: Steve Eichner

She explained that she moved out without telling Tom: “I drove him to work, I told him I loved him and he said, ‘Thanks, hun.’ Like I was an employee,” Erika said. “I went home and started putting everything in the moving van. I drove off, went to my new place, spent the night there and he was served the next morning.”

Meanwhile, Tom is facing multiple lawsuits.

Several of Tom’s business partners are suing him to dissolve their 1126 Wilshire Partnership. His partners claim that Tom never paid them approximately $315,000 in income from the partnership and kept the money for himself, according to court documents obtained by People.

They also said that Tom took out loans against the company’s property without their knowledge. The partners are asking to dissolve the partnership and liquidate the assets, as well as to be paid the money they say they were previously owed.

Tom is also facing another lawsuit that claims that he embezzled funds from several families who lost loved ones in a 2018 Boeing plane crash. Tom attended a Chicago court hearing in mid-December of 2020 via phone and wasn’t able to explain to the judge where at least $2 million went from the crash settlement of Lion Air Flight 610, per The Chicago Sun-Times.

Erika was also named in the lawsuit because the plaintiffs' firm argued that Tom embezzled the money "in order to continue funding his and Erika's lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles," per E! News. But on Jan. 29, 2022, Erika was officially dismissed from the case. "Pursuant to stipulation, plaintiff's claims against defendants EJ Global LLC and Erika Girardi are dismissed without prejudice and without costs," the court documents read.

Jay Edelson, the plaintiffs' attorney, claimed that he would refile against Erika in the state of California on Twitter. But Erika's lawyer, Evan Borges, said in a statement that "while Edelson retains the right to re-file in California, the dismissal of Erika from the federal lawsuit that triggered bankruptcies of Girardi Keese and Tom Girardi is extremely important."

"The truth matters. Here, the truth is that Erika had no role in the Lion Air dealings, actions, or inaction as between the attorneys and their clients, and she never received any of the Lion Air client settlement funds," he added, according to E! News.

As things started to heat up legally, Dr. Nathan Lavid, a forensic and clinical psychiatrist in Long Beach, submitted a sworn declaration to the Superior Court of California back in March of 2021. He attested that Tom is medically unfit to attend any court proceedings “for the foreseeable future,” per People, since his recent diagnosis of dementia and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Dementia impairs his ability to understand the hearing,” Dr. Lavid wrote. “His emotional distress is directly related to his dementia and exacerbated by his confusion.”

Erika's legal team dropped her case after The Housewife and The Hustler aired.

The Hulu documentary The Housewife and The Hustler exposed Tom's financial scandals by interviewing victims in his cases who claimed that they never received their settlement money. The film was released on Monday, June 14, 2021.

By the end of the day, Erika was no longer a client of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. "The relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down," the law firm stated in court documents, per Page Six. "And, in the good faith assessment of counsel, the relationship is irreparable."

Previously, the firm was representing Erika in Tom’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. The company also said it advised Erika to find a new lawyer, warning her of "the potential consequences of not timely securing replacement counsel."

Erika was reportedly served papers for a new $50 million lawsuit.

On July 22, 2022, Erika seemed to be served papers for a $50 million racketeering lawsuit from Edelson PC when she arrived at the airport after a luxurious vacation to Hawaii, according to Page Six. This marked the second lawsuit from the firm that she's been named in this year.

The lawsuit accused Erika of nine separate charges, including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, unlawful business practice and deceit, in relation to her ongoing legal drama with Tom, per Page Six

The outlet obtained footage of the event, which show a woman approaching Erika (masked with her hair in a bun) at Los Angeles International Airport and handing her two thick stacks of documents. “I just wanted to give you these documents. This is a summons and complaint to serve you,” the woman said, per Page Six.

So far, Erika hasn’t responded publicly about the suit. Instead, she posted on her Instagram Stories about being floored that it’s almost August, along with a video of her dog with a “Happy Birthday” bone.

Erika's lawyers have argued that she had no idea what Tom was doing at his law firm.

Back in October of 2021, Erika's attorney filed a document stating that she had “no role in the management of [Tom’s] firm” and currently has “no knowledge of whatever transpired at GK related to the Lion Air litigation filed in November 2018, or the settlement funds,” per Us Weekly.

The file also explained that Erika had “no access or visibility into the bank accounts of GK, including client trust accounts, into which Edelson [the class action law firm] alleges the settlement funds in the Lion Air case were paid.”

Then, in early November, more documents were filed by Erika's attorney stating that she was also not involved in the "illegal fee sharing" that Tom is accused of in relation to the Lion Air case. She “never had and does not have any of the fee agreements between [the Girardi Keese firm] and the Lion Air clients,” the papers continued.

So, what's the big deal? The "bombshell filing" could have a serious impact on Erika's case, investigator Ronald Richards told Us Weekly. “It accuses Edelson’s firm of an illegal fee sharing agreement, exposing them to discipline,” he said. “Fee sharing requirements as it relates to attorney-client fee agreements are serious business in both California and Illinois.”

But an April lawsuit claims she knew exactly what Tom was doing.

Erika was actually named in another $55 million Edelson PC lawsuit back in April of 2022 that is related to this one, per Vulture. In the April lawsuit, the company accused Erika of using her fame to "prolong" the supposed misconduct between Tom and his law firm, Page Six reported.

Jay Edelson from Edelson PC told Page Six that the new case is a separate one that is “prosecuting the claims of the clients (the widows and orphans)” whereas the April suit was “more limited, in terms of who we sued, what we were suing about, and the legal theories we are pursuing.”

The April lawsuit claims the former couple “routinely misappropriated client settlement money to project an image of wealth and to prop up a lifestyle made for reality TV,” Page Six reported. The case also claims that Erika was the "frontwoman," "flaunting" her wealth and maintaining that Girardi Keese was still a successful law firm.

“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," the papers said, per Page Six.

“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," it continues.

In a statement, Jay Edelson added, “The victims of Tom’s fraud have had to sit back and watch Erika spend obscene amounts of money as they had nothing,” according to Page Six. “This is a giant step forward in obtaining real accountability for what was the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiff’s law. It’s time for her to stop the lies and start taking some accountability."

Tom's law firm is more than $100 million in debt.

Tom's law firm, Girardi Keese, filed for bankruptcy, according to court documents obtained by People on August 25, 2021. The firm's total liabilities stack up to around $101 million ($97 million more than the company's total assets of all listed property).

It seems there were some organizational probs in the firm's financial records, per the documents. The trustee who reviewed the company's finances said "the debtor's accounting offices were not well maintained" and that "much of what the trustee found upon her appointment was very dated."

To help pay off the creditors in the bankruptcy case, the law firm started auctioning off a variety of items that had been stored in the law office back in July. These items included a Cadillac, a piano, art, wine, vintage books, furniture, and sports and music memorabilia. A signed poster of Julia Roberts from the movie Erin Brockovich was also sold. ICYMI, Tom was the lawyer in the 1990s case against the Pacific Gas and Electric company that was the basis for the film.

The real Erin Brockovich has worked with Tom on other cases. She recently said in an interview that she was unaware clients weren't receiving their money until the claims were made public, according to The New York Times. “It sickens me, it frustrates me, it saddens me,” she said. “I cannot fathom how they feel. And yet we keep sensationalizing Tom and Erika.”

The firm was even selling "Erika Jayne" collectibles, including signed magazine covers, framed photos of Erika and Tom, and the Billboard plaque for Erika's 2009 song, "Roller Coaster," per Us Weekly.

Erika has also been named in the bankruptcy case.

Lawyers alleged that Tom's law firm may have covered up to $25 million of Erika's expenses. Then, in July, Erika was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a bankruptcy trustee hoping to collect that money, according to The New York Times.

Court documents revealed that her expenses included more than $850,000 spent on stylists and manicures, at least $1.3 million on marketing, and $14 million in American Express charges. RHOBH fans know that Erika keeps a "glam squad" on retainer—they've even been featured in a few episodes.

Prior court documents have claimed that she knowingly hid money from the creditors involved. "Erika has used her glamour and notoriety to continue to aid and abet in sham transactions that have occurred with respect to large transfers of assets from the Debtor," the documents said, per People.

Erika's lawyer, Evan Borges, stated that Erika did not know what Tom was accused of or how he handled his law firm's money. “Erika doesn’t have personal liability for any of those transactions,” Borges explained, per the New York Times.

Erika was asked to turn over a pair of $750,000 diamond earrings in January of 2022.

As the bankruptcy trustee continues to investigate Tom, Erika has been asked to hand in a pair of diamond earrings valued at $750,000. The trustee is arguing that Tom bought the earrings back in 2007 using money from a client trust account at his law firm, per People. The studs were labeled as a "cost" on the account.

But Erika's lawyer has stated that she was gifted the gems. "If the law matters, the trustee's motion is completely out-of-bounds. Even based on the incomplete hearsay evidence filed with the motion, the trustee has no claim based on Erika innocently receiving a gift of earrings 15 years ago from her now-estranged and then-extraordinarily wealthy husband," he said.

Recently, Erika and the trustee have agreed to keep the earrings in a safety deposit box until they have been appraised, Radar Online reported. “The appraisal has not been completed. The parties also have been engaged in settlement discussions, including an in-person meeting and several discussions between counsel,” according to documents from the case.

She just won a $5 million fraud lawsuit.

Erika has been fighting back against the lawsuits. According to Page Six, Erika shared on Instagram back in May 2022 that she was being extorted after two attorneys who worked with Tom Girardi’s law firm, Girardi & Keese, filed a $5 million fraud lawsuit in 2020 against her and Tom.

“Extortion. This is what Im dealing with,” she captioned the post.

She scored a big victory in court in late August of 2022. A judge found no evidence that Erika participated in “any wrongdoing” after Tom’s former colleagues sued her for “aiding and abetting” Tom's alleged crimes, per Page Six.

The lawsuit claimed that Erika knew her husband had been using client settlement money to pay for their lifestyle, but the judge said that the plaintiffs didn't have direct evidence tying Erika to the alleged misappropriation of funds, and called the plaintiff's claims “inferences," per Page Six.

In a deposition, Erika said she had no knowledge of business dealings. “They did all the books at Girardi & Keese,” she said, per Page Six. “They were in charge of all of the ledgers … I didn’t do the invoices.”

Erika went on to explain that she “didn’t really ask” about finances. “I didn’t know what they were doing down there,” she added.

The judge added that Erika’s “lavish and extravagant hobby funded by the spouses’ community property is not evidence of the ‘actual knowledge’ any breach of fiduciary duty."

Tom was wiring money to his mistress.

When the Los Angeles Times reported on August 31, 2022, that Tom misused $300,000 from his law firm to give his mistress a beach condo, Erika reacted on social media. “Wow. I knew about jewelry, shopping sprees, and plastic surgery but this really threw me for a loop,” she said on Instagram, next to a screenshot of the article.

Court documents obtained by the LA Times said that Tom used $300,000 in client settlement funds to help his mistress, Tricia Bigelow, a then-justice at the state appeals court in LA, buy an oceanfront condo in Santa Monica. The funds were allegedly part of an account reserved for residents of a polluted community and cancer victims.

A lawyer for Tom’s mistress told the LA Times that his client didn’t know Tom used settlement money and that Tom “never shared anything with her regarding the source of any gifts" and that the wire transfer was "NOT marked as coming from a [Girard Keese] trust account."

Erika owes $2.2 million in back taxes.

Erika recently revealed that she owes $2.2 million in taxes that she cannot pay. In June 2022, Erika shared in a court filing that the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) informed her she owes $2.2 million for 2019, according to Us Weekly.

“I do not have the ability to pay the FTP tax bill. I also do not know if the FTB is claiming any sort of lien on my assets, which include the diamond earrings,” she shared.

She was also hit was a $745,000 lawsuit from Christina Fulton.

On July 19, 2022, Christina Fulton, who is also Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend, sued Erika and two former employees of Toms firm over claims of receipt of stolen property and conversion, according to the complaint, per People.

Christina also claims that Erika's company, EJ Global LLC, was used to avoid paying taxes and funnel money from Tom's law firm to Erika. It also states that Erika was aware of the inner workings.

"Erika and Tom Girardi would deduct EJG´s expenses on their personal tax return...Girardi Keese would keep the money paid to Erika as a bogus receivable on its books and records," the document states. "Erika clearly knew that for tax years 2011 to 2013, the FTB found that the entity was created as a tax avoidance entity."

However, Erika's lawyer Evan C. Borges argued that the claims could not be backed because Erika is not a lawyer and did not deal with clients from Tom's firm. He also added that Erika was under the impression she was married to "an extremely wealthy attorney with a financially successful law firm," per People.

Christina's lawyer, Ronald Richards responded by noting that Erika was being sued for being the beneficiary of their client's funds, not for being Tom's wife.

"She needs to return some but not all of this settlement that was stolen by Tom with the help of others at this firm who we are investigating but may not be defendants yet," he continued. "Erika cannot keep all the benefits of stolen client money. Innocent spouse does not provide immunity for misappropriated funds," per People.

Tom's brother became his conservator due to Tom's dementia—but RHOBH fans aren't buying it.

On July 12, 2021, Robert Girardi filed official letters of conservatorship in court, per Us Weekly. The paperwork makes Tom's brother the conservator of Tom's person and estate. The decision was made partially because of Tom's recent dementia diagnosis, which was labeled a "major neurocognitive disorder" in court documents.

Tom has been outspoken about his opinions on the conservatorship, saying in a virtual court hearing that he "obviously … disagree[d] with the conservatorship altogether." "I think that we should put together the reasons why the conservatorship should be dissolved, and then we’ll address it, address the court," he added, per Us Weekly. "Right now, I have nothing to say to the court."

But many, including fans and some RHOBH cast members themselves, aren't convinced. In an extra scene from RHOBH, Kyle Richards and her husband, Mauricio, called Tom "a young 81" and mention that "his mind is 100% there."

The clip tipped plenty of Bravo fans off, too. "Funny, not any of these people seemed to notice or ever mention Tom Girardi having any Dementia symptoms or onset of Alzheimer's. Including Erika. Not one person," one fan tweeted. Interesting.

Tom has been disbarred and moved into a senior living facility.

Regardless of whether fans, lawyers, or even Erika think Tom is of sound mind, he has now officially checked into a senior living facility, according to the Daily Mail. He lives at the Belmont Village Senior Living in Burbank, California.

The change in residence came just days after Tom was disbarred by the California Federal Court on Aug. 20, 2021, per Entertainment Tonight. Tom can no longer "practice in the central district of California for the federal courts but the state bar proceedings are still pending," a source said. He did not contest the court's decision, per People.

And the State Bar of California even conducted its own investigation to uncover whether any of its employees or other insiders helped Tom cover up what he was doing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The State Bar board leadership and staff take very seriously the immense harm done by Thomas Girardi to innocent victims,” announced Ruben Duran, the chair of the State Bar’s board of trustees. “Mark our words: we will go wherever the evidence leads us.”

The pair listed their $1.25 million property in La Quinta, California last fall.

In October of 2021, Us Weekly reported that Tom and Erika had officially put their $1.25 million home in La Quinta, California, up for sale. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fans heard Erika explain this season that, while she knew she owned a home there, she had no idea where it was and had never visited it or stayed there.

According to Us Weekly, the massive home has a view of the nearby mountains and golf course, plus a pool. It also has a guest house, complete with its own bedroom and living area.

Bravo is also being subpoenaed for extra footage from RHOBH season 11.

Erika has now been named in at least six civil lawsuits, per The New York Times—and a new one centers around her role in RHOBH. Lawyers sent a subpoena to Bravo producers requesting any unaired footage from the show last season.

Attorney Jay Edelson told Us Weekly that Bravo and producer Andy Cohen are suspected of "protecting" Erika by leaving certain clips out of the show. “We have all seen Bravo ride the Girardi embezzlement scandal to historically high ratings,” Edelson said in October.

“For the most part, Andy Cohen and Bravo have protected Erika, paying her—according to reports—as much as $600,000 to be on the show this year while allowing her to cast herself as the primary victim of Tom’s criminality," he continued. “We believe that Bravo has a legal and moral duty to cooperate in our litigation so the true facts come out and the families of the Lion Air crash victims can get some justice.”

Alex Baskin, president of Evolution Media (the company that produces RHOBH for Bravo), told The New York Times that “the show is an authentic reflection of what occurred in real time. No accommodation was made for Erika while shooting" or editing, he added.

Her legal issues come up again during RHOBH season 12.

Viewers are getting to see Erika answer even more questions about the cases against her this season. In a previous clip, Erika confronts co-star Sutton Stracke, asking her why she "chose to repeat things and say things that have been disproven," per E! News. She also asks why Sutton brought up "the $20 million elephant in the room"—supposedly about the claims that Erika's businesses accepted over $20 million in loans from Tom's law firm.

"I never had it," Erika says. She adds, "it was never in my hands. It was never in my account."

But Garcelle thinks otherwise: "Other than Erika saying that they've been disproven," she reveals in a confessional, "I've seen nothing—not in the paper, not in the blogs, nowhere. If this is true, why isn't it in the press?"

In another shot, a Bravo producer asks Erika how and when the events Sutton brought up were "disproven."

"I don't know," she replies. "You'll have to go check all that s--t out, but it was disproven. So Bravo can do their due diligence. I don't really know."

As for people who still have questions, "tell them to go f--king read everything that my lawyer has put out," Erika tells the producer. "They can answer their own f--king questions.

Erika has opened up about the divorce on the show.

A source told Us Weekly that Erika told plenty of details about the divorce while filming the show, but only to a point. "Legally, there is only so much she is allowed to say, but she has been advised on what she can put out there," the source said.

In a RHOBH episode, Erika explained how difficult the divorce was for her. “I cried every day,” she said. But during season 12, Erika also revealed that she's taking her time finalizing her divorce to avoid paying alimony. "It's ironic, but if I was divorced from Tom, I'd have to pay him alimony," she said in her confessional. "I'll stay married, thanks."

Erika's relationship with Tom was never perfect, she said. In fact, a source told People that Erika said Tom "was cheating on her with multiple women" and that Erika has "known about his infidelity for years" but "wanted to try and save the marriage."

In December 2020, Erika posted screenshots of texts on Instagram before quickly deleting them. She wrote in the caption that she thought the texts were between Tom and another woman.

Photo credit: theprettymess Instagram
Photo credit: theprettymess Instagram

The dates on the screenshots go all the way back to 2011, per Us Weekly.

Sutton Stracke shares that was contacted by an attorney regarding Tom and Erika’s legal troubles.

To hit back after Erika called her a “liability” as a friend, Sutton struck back during the August 17, 2022 episode, claiming it was actually Erika who was the liability.

In a preview for the episode, Sutton shared that she was contacted by an attorney via letter about one of the lawsuits Tom and Erike are involved in.

“The attorney thought that I had information,” Sutton told the other Housewives at Dorit's Homeless Not Toothless gala. “They want information from me that I don’t even have. I’m not getting subpoenaed. I’m not going to Chicago.”

She explained that it wasn’t a subpoena, and that she hired a litigator to answer questions.

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