Jury Finds Avenatti To Blame in Decade-Old Fight Over Unpaid Attorney Fees
Source: Cappello & Noël LLP
On June 22, 2022, an Orange County civil jury found in favor of William Parrish and E. Timothy Fitzgibbons, and against Stoll, Nussbaum & Polakov, their former lawyers who had sued them for claimed attorney fees in a prior case. The jury returned a verdict in two hours, ruling against the Stoll law firm 12-0 on every claim. The jury found that Robert Stoll had failed to perform as an attorney for Parrish and Fitzgibbons and that if any fees were owed to Stoll, they were due from now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, Stoll’s prior co-counsel.
The lawsuit began in 2011, after the Stoll firm, along with Eagan Avenatti and Panish Shea & Boyle had represented Parrish and Fitzgibbons in a malicious prosecution action against FLIR, their former employer. FLIR agreed to pay $39 million to settle that case including $15.4 million in attorney fees, and by the agreement of all the lawyers, wired the settlement money to the Eagan Avenatti trust account.
After the settlement was paid, Avenatti refused to pay his co-counsel Stoll any attorney fees, arguing that Stoll had done no work on the case, and was looking for a hand-out. The lawyers began a vicious fight with one another, and when Stoll could not get money from Avenatti, Stoll turned on the clients, and sued them, wrongly blaming them for Avenatti’s conduct. Meanwhile, Avenatti had secretly transferred $10 million in remaining fees into his law firm’s operating account and began spending it on a luxury home, cars, jewelry, law firm expenses and concierge services. In just over a year, Avenatti had spent all the money while assuring the clients and others it was safe in his law firm trust account.
Parrish and Fitzgibbons were represented by Lawrence Conlan, partner at Cappello & Noël LLP in Santa Barbara, and Chris Wesierski of Wesierski & Zurek LLP in Lake Forest (Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 30-2011-00483570).
Conlan said his clients are elated. “We proved that it was all about Avenatti's bad acts, and it had nothing to do with Mr. Parrish and Mr. Fitzgibbons. Bob Stoll and his law firm helped cause this mess, and they never should have sued our clients. Now our clients have been vindicated,” said Conlan, who also noted that Avenatti’s misconduct was enabled by others as well, and that those who misled his clients or assisted Avenatti along the way will be held accountable.
April 2, 2019: Lawyer Michael Avenatti Sued in Santa Barbara Superior Court