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How the Indonesian Lion Air Crash Introduced Down a US Authorized Empire – The Diplomat

How the Indonesian Lion Air Crash Brought Down a US Legal Empire

On this Oct. 31, 2018, file photograph, family of passengers of a crashed Lion Air jet examine private belongings retrieved from the waters the place the airplane is believed to have crashed, at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Credit score: AP Photograph/Tatan Syuflana, File

When the famed Beverly Hills lawyer Tom Girardi was charged with defrauding purchasers to the tune of an eye-watering $15 million again in February, it marked a spectacular fall from grace for probably the most sought-after authorized minds within the enterprise.

Girardi, 83, made a reputation for himself as a fearsome Los Angeles-based private harm lawyer who gained multi-million greenback settlements for his purchasers and as soon as labored as a part of the workforce that represented the residents of Hinkley, California of their case in opposition to Pacific Gasoline & Electrical –a case immortalized within the 2000 movie “Erin Brokovich.”

But the authorized eagle’s alleged fraud, which is assumed to have spanned many years, would maybe have by no means been uncovered, had it not been for an incident that befell greater than 14,000 kilometers away in Indonesia.

On October 29, 2018, a Lion Air airplane crashed into the Java Sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers and crew aboard. The airplane was a model new 737 Max that had been bought by the Indonesian low-cost provider Lion Air from U.S. plane producer Boeing.

Following the crash, it was discovered that the flight maneuvering system on the airplane, often called MCAS, had malfunctioned, prompting the households of the victims to sue the airplane’s producer, then headquartered in Chicago. 5 plaintiffs within the case engaged Girardi as their authorized consultant in america, and the lawyer’s agency, Girardi & Keese, in flip, sought native authorized counsel in Chicago, profitable a settlement of a number of million {dollars} in early 2020.

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But the cash by no means arrived.

As a substitute, the purchasers alleged that they had been fobbed off with excuses from Girardi & Keese about why the settlement cash, which had been despatched to the agency’s consumer belief account, had but to succeed in them.

Drafts of among the letters reportedly written by Girardi make for troublesome studying.

“We made an settlement with Boeing that all the circumstances could be resolved. They gave us particular authorization to distribute 50%. I really feel pretty assured the stability will probably be performed inside 30 days. There was additionally a tax situation that got here up that I’m attempting to resolve,” one in every of them reads.

“I received sufficient of the issue taken care of so we had been capable of launch 50% of the settlement. I really feel fairly good in regards to the subsequent cost. There are tax points and many others. I’m working very exhausting,” says one other.

On the finish of 2020, the Chicago-based agency that had represented the victims on Girardi’s behalf, Edelson PC, horrified that the funds had not been transferred to the purchasers in full, filed a lawsuit in opposition to him and paid the households the settlement cash out of their very own account.

In a memorandum opinion of the case, Chicago-based Choose Thomas Durkin was scathing in his evaluation of the scenario, calling Girardi’s actions “a stain on the authorized career.” He continued,

All the plaintiffs on this case had been residents and residents of one other nation, a lot of whom don’t communicate English and have little to no expertise with American society and definitely not its court docket system. Most usually are not very well-off. All of them suffered the tragic lack of members of the family. In want of assist, they trusted American attorneys to shepherd them via the authorized course of and obtain no less than some aid for his or her losses with quantities of cash which are possible life-changing of their nation. Girardi took benefit of susceptible folks at their most susceptible moments, and he used the status of his career, the repute of American courts, and the imprimatur of this Court docket to do it. It’s practically unattainable to fix such a breach of belief. 

Of the $18 million he now stands accused of embezzling from his purchasers, Girardi is accused of taking some $3 million from the widows and orphans of the Indonesian Lion Air crash victims –prices to which he pleaded not responsible in February.

He has additionally declared chapter, acknowledged that he’s affected by Alzheimer’s and entered a conservatorship during which his brother is legally accountable for him. He was additionally disbarred in 2022 and banned from training legislation by the State Bar of California. Presently the prosecutors within the case are wrangling over whether or not Girardi is mentally match to face trial, arguing in a current court docket submitting that his “seemingly speedy neurocognitive decline, in addition to the timing of it, are uncommon and require nearer scrutiny.”

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But no matter occurs with the case, Girardi’s downfall and alleged many years of duplicity will all the time owe one thing to Indonesia and the 189 souls aboard Lion Air Flight JT 610.



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