By Terrance Turner
May 18, 2022
In October 2018, the new Boeing 737 MAX plane crashed into the Java Sea just 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 aboard. Families of the victims sued Boeing. Lawyer Tom Girardi’s firm, Girardi Keese, represented about 12 of the families. Boeing reached a settlement with the families in which they transferred “substantial, but confidential” amounts to the firm. But the money apparently didn’t reach those victims — and the resulting litigation roped both Girardi and his wife Erika Jayne into a swirling, unpretty mess.
On Nov. 3, 2020, Erika Jayne filed for divorce from Tom Girardi after 21 years of marriage. (The two had married in 1999, when she was 28 and he was 60.) “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi,” the reality personality — also known by her stage name, Erika Jayne — told E!. “This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together.”
One month later, on Dec. 2, 2020, the Edelson PC law firm filed a lawsuit against both Tom and Erika, alleging that the divorce is a sham and that the Girardis are funding an “outrageous lifestyle”. The lawsuit alleges Girardi kept the money for his own purposes. Lawyers with another firm representing the families say that Mr. Girardi may have “misappropriated at least $2 million in settlement money paid out by Boeing,” according to the New York Times. Attorney Jay Edelson says that the firm became suspicious when some of the victims’ families hadn’t been paid by Girardi’s firm — even though a settlement was reached in early 2020.
On Dec. 14, 2020, Girardi was held in “civil contempt” after he could not explain what happened to the $2 million. Judge Thomas Durkin froze the assets of both Girardi and his law firm, saying that the simplest solution would be to pay each of the victims who are allegedly owed $500,000. “These are widows and orphans,” Durkin said, per The Chicago Sun-Times. “Half a million dollars for any one of these families is a significant amount of money. Life-changing, given the tragedy they went through.”
On Dec. 15, news broke that Girardi’s law firm partner was suing him. Documents obtained by Page Six revealed that Girardi’s law firm partner, Robert Keese, was suing to dissolve their business venture known as 1126 Wilshire Partnership. Keese, joined by Robert Finnerty and Jill O’Callahan, alleged the estranged husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne never paid them the approximately $315,000 in income from the partnership, claiming he took the money “for his own personal gain.”
The three plaintiffs also claim in the documents that Girardi took out loans against the property valued up to $7,460,000 million without their knowledge for Girardi’s “own personal gain, benefit and use” and not for the benefit of the partnership. As a result, the plaintiffs allege they’ve suffered a loss in equity of approximately $442,500 each.
Three days later, more details were revealed about Mr. Girardi’s unraveling marriage. On Dec. 18, 2020, a source close to the couple told People magazine that Mrs. Girardi filed for the divorce because of infidelity, saying that “the reason she divorced Tom is because he was cheating on her with multiple women,” adding that “she’s known about his infidelity for years”.
“When she was performing her last week on Broadway [in Chicago], he left her high and dry and was frolicking around town instead of supporting her and attending her shows,” the insider says they were told. “She realized she would never be a priority to him and that was her breaking point.”
The very next day, Mrs. Girardi seemed to confirm the source’s claims when she posted and then deleted a lurid text exchange between Mr. Girardi and Judge Tricia Bigelow, a trial judge in California. In her Instagram caption, Erika Jayne alleged that Bigelow was sleeping with her husband and that he was funding her shopping and cosmetic surgery. (Language NSFW.)
“The split was a long time coming. The lawsuit just coincided with her decision to leave him,” the source told People. But that claim was met with skepticism by observers both within and outside the courtroom. And it was just one of many things Erika Jayne would have to answer for on the show on which she’s a cast member — “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.
On Jan. 20, 2021, Girardi’s brother asked that Tom be placed in a conservatorship: “His short-term memory is severely compromised [and] he is often not oriented to date, time and place”. Tom Girardi had a mental heath assessment on Feb. 26 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease by a psychiatrist in a declaration for court. Dr. Nathan Lavid, a forensic psychiatrist, wrote about his condition for a hearing.
“Dementia impairs his ability to understand the hearing,” Lavid wrote. “His emotional distress is directly related to his dementia and exacerbated by his confusion.” According to Page Six, Lavid also noted that Tom’s short-term memory, ability to concentrate and recognition have “moderate impairment.” He also said Tom suffers from “moderate” delusions.
Tom was eventually placed in a senior care living facility in Burbank — by then, Erika Jayne was long gone. Last June, Girardi opened up to her cast members about her decision to file for divorce. “My life drastically changed this week. I let go of my Lamborghini, I let go of my 16,000-square-foot home, I let go of my marriage — I let go of everything. I literally made a decision that I had to,” the 49-year-old shared with the RHOBH ladies.
“I left because he pushed me further and further out,” she said during a confessional. “The conversations that I used to have were now reduced down to a sentence or two. I just kept walking around that house and knowing that this marriage was headed down a really s—– path, I had to make a choice to do what was right for me. I couldn’t live that way anymore.”
In a July episode of “RHOBH”, she cried to castmate Kyle Richards about the distance that others have created between her and them. “You would be shocked how people turn on you. How quickly people distance themselves like, automatically. They don’t want to be involved. They were there when it was good, though.”
In August 2021, Erika Jayne herself was sued by her estranged husband’s lawyers. The lawyers for the trustee overseeing the Girardi Keese bankruptcy found that the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star’s company spent more than $25,000,000 on her American Express bill, assistants and a glam squad, according to a legal demand letter sent to her lawyer on Thursday.
The letter, which was exclusively obtained by Page Six, alleged that money was transferred from her estranged husband Tom Girardi’s law firm into Jayne’s company, EJ Global LLC, and notes that she is the sole owner of the company. Mrs. Girardi had to answer some tough questions from her cast members about that after a bombshell article in the Los Angeles Times. Erika was shocked to learn few of the women — Sutton Stracke, Dorit Kemsley and Kyle Richards — had spoken with lawyers about Erika’s situation.
“We’re nervous; some people are nervous,” explained cast member Garcelle Beauvais, while Sutton added she just wanted to “make sure I’m also protecting myself.” Erika shot back, “Darling, how are you involved in any of this? You guys, are you really that afraid of me?”
Stracke didn’t back down, though, bringing up the “$20 million elephant in the room” and asking about the $20 million that went to Erika’s LLC. Erika was stone-faced and didn’t answer, before cast member Kyle Richards interjected and asked, “The obvious question is, did you know any of this?”
Erika reiterated that no, she did not. When Kyle wondered out loud whether Erika knew where the money was coming from or if it was a loan, Erika shut down the line of questioning by responding, “That’s another question as well, that we will uncover.”
“You read these headlines and it’s hard to digest. Orphans and widows, makes you feel sick,” Dorit continued, before Erika said even she was surprised by some of the things revealed in the Times article — including the fact “we had $50-$80 million cast that’s gone.” As for where the money went, Erika said that’s a question only Tom can answer.
“Have you had any discussions with attorneys about the story? How to navigate through it?” Sutton then asked, to which Erika said “No.” Dorit said the question made her “uncomfortable.”
Garcelle then got in on the action saying that her sister, who had a kidney transplant, got ripped off by a lawyer once too. “If what Tom did is absolutely true, then f— Tom,” she said, “because I know what it feels like to waiting for compensation for something they went through.”
“What’s being alleged in the lawsuit is terrible and he will have to pay a price or that, if in fact that’s what happened,” Erika calmly replied. “I think what has happened to Tom here is he is not mentally capable and he is in full control of his firm and I think it got away from him. I think we’re dealing with a man who is diminished capacity in control and not doing the right thing. If he stole the money, I’d like to know where it is. That’s the truth.”
When Garcelle noted that the victims “are the most important thing” and Erika will “always be okay,” Jayne agreed. “The victims need to be taken care of. That’s where everyone’s coming from.”
Though she now insists “I have nothing to hide and nothing to lose” in the tagline of the new season of” “RHOBH,” it appears that Erika Jayne Girardi still has a lot to answer for.
This story will be updated.