Criminal indictments have drawn most of the attention in the probe surrounding private investigator Anthony Pellicano, but that may be changing.
Many of those whose names came up in the federal investigation are considering civil cases against Pellicano, phone companies and municipalities. The cases could involve as many major Hollywood players and unseemly acts as the criminal case has and take years to wend their way through the legal system.
“The civil cases will have their day in court.” said Brian S. Kabateck of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP. “These people were very upset by what happened, and they remain very upset.”
Several of the town’s most high-powered trial lawyers are lining up to take the cases, betting that the outrage of those named could turn into major payoffs.
The most high-profile case at this point has been brought by Kabateck, who is well known as a class action attorney who has pressed cases against Hewlett-Packard Co. and Merck & Co. Inc.’s Vioxx. He’s representing Erin Finn, whose former boyfriend, record producer Robert Pfieffer, has been indicted for allegedly hiring Pellicano to wiretap her. Kabateck is seeking class action status for the case, and if it is approved in Los Angeles Federal Court, it could include all others who Pellicano allegedly wiretapped. With individuals directly tapped and others who conversed with people whose phones were wiretapped eligible for the suit, the number of plaintiffs could rise into the thousands. A class certification ruling is pending.
Meanwhile, three attorneys are working together and are planning to consolidate a handful of individual cases. Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Lawrence C. Ecoff of Ecoff Law & Salomons LLP and Neville L. Johnson of Johnson & Rishwain LLP have together filed civil suits against Pellicano, AT & T; Inc. and SBC Telecommunications Inc. on behalf of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, whose divorce case against Kirk Kerkorian resulted in the indictment of both Pellicano and L.A. lawyer Terry Christensen.
The trio plans to bring other suits seeking damages on behalf of centerfold Monika Zibrista, former nanny Pamela Miller and members of her family, Ami Shafrir, and Aaron Rousseau. Some will be filed against Beverly Hills and some against the City of Los Angeles for civil rights violations and invasion of privacy, Johnson said, and could be consolidated.
Close to home
An attorney who was himself wiretapped has brought another case.
Gregory Dovel of Dovel & Luner LLP represented producer Bo Zenga in 2000 in a dispute over proceeds from the film “Scary Movie” with Brad Grey, who ran the talent company that brought him the project. Grey has since gone on to become the head of Paramount Studios.
“At the time it was scary how much they knew about everything,” Dovel said. “The thought went through my mind to check with someone, and they said it was impossible. So we dismissed it.”
Zenga’s credibility crumbled in the middle of trial. And his complaint against Grey, which Dovel said could have been worth between $3 million and $5 million for Zenga, was dismissed.
Dovel is representing Zenga in a case against Pellicano, LAPD detective Mark Arneson, the City of Los Angeles, AT & T; and Grey. Also named are Grey’s lawyer, Bert Fields, and his firm, Greenberg Glusker LLP. Dovel’s complaint is largely based on a federal prosecutor’s allegations and claims that Pellicano listened to nearly 2,000 calls, allegedly at the request of lawyers at Greenberg Glusker. State law dictates the suit is worth no less than $5,000 per incident, but with the potential for punitive damages, the defendants could be on the hook for up to $10 million.
In addition to his class action against AT & T;, Kabateck is also pressing a handful of individual cases.
Kabateck represents actor Keith Carradine and his fianc & #233;. Carradine claims that he was wiretapped when he was in the process of divorcing his ex-wife, actress Hayley DuMond. In his suit, Carradine accuses Pellicano and two former Pacific Bell employees of conspiring to tap his phone calls.