It really is expensive to be Erika Jayne. The singer and reality star’s legal issues don’t seem to be letting up any time soon.
After returning from a Hawaiian vacation with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills castmates Lisa Rinna and Diana Jenkins, she was served with a whopping $50-million racketeering lawsuit at LAX. In a video posted online, she appeared in a white tracksuit, holding a Gucci duffle bag and was approached by a process server who could be heard saying, “I just wanted to give you these documents ... this is a summons and complaint to serve you.”
“Thank you very much,” she calmly responded.
It’s a demeanour we’ve seen much of on the show, though there have been a fair share of tears and outbursts over the mounting stress of her legal woes (poor Sutton Stracke).
The lawsuit, filed by Edelson PC, alleges she’s committed racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful business practice – amongst a host of other accusations. And while the charges sound serious, and the lawsuit hefty, this is just the latest installment of legal issues she’s found herself in. Let’s take a look at how she got here.
Trouble seems to have kicked off in November of 2020 when Erika Jayne filed for divorce from Tom Girardi, a then 81-year-old class-action lawyer known for his work on the famous Erin Brockovich case. Immediately after the divorce, Jayne requested spousal support, but he had no desire to continue supporting her.
Most assumed this was over bitterness about the divorce, but soon after, allegations that Girardi had misappropriated funds and embezzled money from a class action lawsuit surfaced, adding another layer of complication to the drama.
As if the embezzlement allegations weren’t bad enough, it’s the nature of the lawsuit that makes things worse. Girardi had represented family members of the victims of the October 2018 Lion Air 610 plane crash that left nearly 200 people dead. It was one of several Boeing 737 Max flights that had gone down mid-flight.
A month later in December of 2020, a lawsuit was filed in Chicago against Girardi and Jayne, alleging the couple owed millions to clients, citing that the two were using money that didn’t belong to them to fund “outrageous” lifestyles. It was also alleged that the couple’s divorce was a sham, and she had only filed to protect money being sought after.
In January of 2021, Girardi’s firm, Girardi & Keese, was forced into a Chapter 7 liquidation, essentially a liquidation of assets to pay creditors, with a group of creditors saying they were owed millions by the firm. And they’re not the only ones who say are owed money by the lawyer. In a complaint filed against Girardi, burn victim Joseph Ruigomez and his family, featured in the ABC News documentary The Hustler & The Housewife, allege that they never received an $11 million settlement the family won from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. after a faulty gas pipeline exploded, burning 80-90% of Ruigomez’s body and leaving his girlfriend dead. The family’s lack of payment persisted despite successfully suing Girardi for legal malpractice. The family was able to obtain a judgment in April 2020 and only received $1 million so far.
Actress Christina Fulton also alleged Girardi only paid her a portion of a settlement totalling more than $900,000 that she won in an injury case. Girardi said he was investing the rest for her.
In February of 2021, Jayne was named in a $2.1 million suit where she was accused of aiding and abetting Girardi, who was placed under a temporary conservatorship that same month. The conservatorship came after his brother Robert suggested his cognitive abilities were decaying and he could no longer care for himself. A cognitive assessment resulted in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and Robert went from temporary to permanent conservator a few months later in June.
In April of 2021, Erika was named in another $50 million lawsuit, centred around allegations of racketeering.
Things stayed quiet for a few months, but sh-t hit the fan in the summer of 2021 starting in July when Erika finally came face-to-face with some of those who had been wronged by Girardi’s firm, including the Ruigomez family. Then, she got hit with a lawsuit by the trustee handling Girardi & Keese’s bankruptcy. The court papers claim Jayne owed the firm $25 million. Whew!
There’s been a slew of activity since then, including a lawsuit filed just weeks ago by Christina Fulton. After discovering her settlement cheque had been forged and deposited into an account that didn’t belong to her, she’s decided to go directly after Jayne.
This is a cluster f-ck. Having spent years watching Erika Jayne on RHOBH, I’m equal parts heartbroken and disturbed. I was truly cheering for her, especially as I learned about her upbringing and seeing her rise to fame. But despite her claims of innocence and ignorance about where Tom’s money, her money, was actually coming from, I find it really hard to believe that she was totally in the dark.
There’s not much left to do at this point but say a prayer for the victims that they get every penny they’re entitled to and that they get the justice they’re seeking – a far-fetched idea considering the already devastating circumstances. But there’s one thing for sure: the next season of RHOBH will chronicle this, in as much detail as a reality show can, anyway, and I’ll be watching.
Attached - Erika at a kickboxing class yesterday in LA.