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Paolucci v. Render Kamas Law Firm

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

August 1, 2013




This case comes before the court on defendant’s motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 37). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 38, 50, 59). Defendant’s motion is granted for the reasons herein.

I. Facts

Defendant Render Kamas, a law firm in Kansas, represented several hundred individuals, including plaintiff Barbara Paolucci, in a series of lawsuits that were known as the “Parade of Toys Litigation.” In April 1997, defendant filed the first lawsuit in the litigation. After a motion for class certification was denied, defendant filed individual lawsuits on behalf of all plaintiffs. Paolucci’s individual lawsuit was styled Paolucci v. Hillcrest Bank, et al, Case No. 99-1643 (District Court of Johnson County, Kansas). Prior to the cases proceeding to trial, six settlements were obtained from various defendants totaling more than one million dollars. In November 2000 and November 2001, two trials were held involving sixteen plaintiffs, but not Paolucci. The results of the jury trials were unfavorable to the plaintiffs. In the sixteen cases that went to trial, fourteen resulted in defense verdicts and the remaining two plaintiffs were only awarded $5, 064.

After the trials, defendant filed appeals on behalf of the plaintiffs. The cases of the remaining plaintiffs were stayed pending the outcome of the appeals. The trial court’s rulings and the jury verdicts were affirmed by the Kansas Court of Appeals. On August 17, 2004, Albert Kamas sent an email to Paolucci and described defendant’s attempts to contact her. Kamas informed Paolucci that the case was pending before the Kansas Supreme Court and, if the appeal was not successful, defendant would seek to withdraw from the remaining cases because the cost to prosecute could not be justified. Defendant informed Paolucci that there had been no payments to any plaintiffs from the settlement proceeds.

On September 14, 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court denied review. On November 2, 2004, defendant sent a letter to Paolucci informing her of the unsuccessful appeal and notifying her that it would be moving to withdraw from her case if it did not hear from her within two weeks. There is no evidence that Paolucci responded to defendant’s November 2 letter.

On September 9, 2005, defendant filed a motion for leave to withdraw as counsel from all remaining cases in the Parade of Toys Litigation. (Doc. 38, exh. A3). On September 17, 2005, district judge Steve Leben granted defendant’s motion to withdraw from all cases and entered an order to show cause why the remaining cases should not be dismissed. (Doc. 38, exh. A4). On October 21, 2005, Paolucci filed an opposition to the motion to withdraw and moved for sanctions. In her filing, Paolucci attached an affidavit in which she stated as follows:

I, Barbara Paolucci, am a Plaintiff in all/various cases against the Parade of Toys Defendants and I make this sworn statement under the penalty of perjury.
3. To the best of my knowledge and belief, Render Kamas obtained at least 3 settlements for sums they claimed were $30, 000.00 or less. And at least one settlement for $150, 000.00. I have recently learned that they also obtained a settlement in the amount of $650, 000.00 and again, I have not received one penny; I have not received notice of the majority of settlements they obtained or any monies won at trial. To the best of my knowledge and belief, none of the Plaintiffs represented by Render, Kamas has received a dime.
5. More recently, I had another attorney in the Kansas area start searching for information through court records and was told that there was a $650, 000.00 settlement. I was never informed of this settlement or any others after the year 2000 and to date, have not received one cent from any settlement monies.
15. I ask the Court to keep in mind that plaintiffs, myself included, have been waiting for 10 years or more for the return of the money they lost in this scam and that having Render, Kamas as an attorney has resulted in adding insult to injury. It can not be possible that over $750, 000.00 in settlements goes to the law firm and $0.00 goes to the clients who were harmed.
16. I am respectfully requesting the Court issue a written Order to all attorneys for them to submit to all Plaintiffs, myself included, their malpractice insurance policies in effect from the time they were retained as attorney by each Plaintiff to the present and this disclosure should include all pertinent information about the policy such as the address of the insurance company, the policy number, copies of the policies and any other information that Plaintiff may need in order to pursue a legal malpractice case against any/all of them.

(Doc. 38, exh. B at 10-15).

The court held a hearing on Paolucci’s motion on January 18, 2006. The court ordered defendant to provide Paolucci with an accounting of settlements and expenses and continued the hearing to March 30. On April 11, 2006, the court denied Paolucci’s motion for sanctions and granted defendant’s motion to withdraw, stating that “Paolucci’s complaints concerning Mr. Kamas clearly establish that the attorney-client relationship has deteriorated to such a point that withdrawal is appropriate.” (Doc. 38, exh. A5). Other than providing Paolucci ...

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