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Did Erika Jayne Just Luck Out in Court?

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for MTV

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne has landed a legal victory in one of several court proceedings she faces related to her estranged husband Tom Girardi’s alleged financial misconduct. On Monday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin determined there was not evidence Jayne engaged in “any wrongdoing” — and decided that she did not have “actual knowledge” of Girardi’s purported misdeeds, according to a New York Post report Wednesday. At this point, Jayne herself is no longer a defendant in this civil suit, which was brought by two lawyers who worked with Girardi on a case. The first version of this suit was filed in December 2020. While this is good news for Jayne, she faces other legal woes unrelated to this, including a federal lawsuit in northern California alleging that Girardi used his clients’ money as a “slush fund” to cover their luxe lifestyle.

These two attorneys, Philip R. Sheldon and Robert P. Finn, worked with Girardi around 2008 and 2009 to represent a “substantial number” of people who had been exposed to toxic chemicals that originated from a handful of southern California cement plants.  When the cases settled for $31 million, Girardi was supposed to send them their nearly $5 million portion of the funds. But Girardi and several of his colleagues allegedly “lulled” them into thinking that the funds couldn’t be distributed until other financial issues were resolved. “Unknown to Plaintiffs, Girardi had already taken their money and breached his and the firm’s fiduciary duty to distribute the funds to Plaintiffs,” court papers allege.

An amended version of this lawsuit filed in July 2021 claimed that Jayne held some of the blame for this alleged siphoning of funds. Jayne, court papers allege, “knew about the scheme and that victims like Plaintiffs were funding her notoriously lavish lifestyle chronicled on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and aided and abetted Girardi’s breach of fiduciary duty and has direct liability for participating in and facilitating the conduct.” Jayne’s company, EJ Global LLC, was also named as a defendant in this version of the civil suit. Court papers contend that the company “similarly aided and abetted Girardi” and received allegedly misappropriated money from him. Another defendant listed is David Lira, Girardi’s son-in-law and a partner at the now-shuttered law firm.

This week’s developments are positive for Jayne however, the overall situation is a bit more complicated. While Jayne herself is no longer a defendant, her company EJ Global, LLC still is. So when this case goes to trial — which could be as soon as September — her company is potentially on the hook for millions. (Lira is still a defendant, too.) Ronald Richards, who represents Sheldon and Finn, told Vulture he didn’t think this week’s development was a major win for Jayne, given that she faces a host of other civil claims: “The case allowed a lot of evidence of what happened to be exposed and put on the record. It does nothing to defeat her overall liability on the larger scale and in the other cases.”

Jayne’s attorney, Evan C. Borges, did not respond to Vulture’s requests for comment. He reportedly told the Post that Fruin’s decision was “critical,” claiming it marks the “first time that a Court of law has looked at ALL the supposed evidence against Erika, and the Court found in Erika’s favor.” Borges also reportedly said: “Because it is the truth, the Court concluded that there is NO EVIDENCE of any knowledge on Erika’s part of any wrongdoing by Tom Girardi or Girardi Keese, and NO EVIDENCE of Erika’s participation in any wrongdoing.” Borges told the newspaper he and Jayne were “gratified that based on a review of actual evidence by a court of law, Erika has been exonerated.” Girardi continues to be dogged with extensive allegations of financial wrongdoing in relation to his legal work — including allegedly using $300,000 in client money to help his extramarital lover buy a condo, per the Los Angeles Times. Girardi stands accused of diverting millions in his clients’ funds, over a period of decades, to fund his and Jayne’s flashy made-for-reality TV lifestyle.

Did Erika Jayne Just Luck Out in Court?