September 16, 2008

Former Baltimore Ravens Football Player Seeks to Recover Fees in Insurance Fraud Lawsuit

By Barbara Grzincic

Former Ravens lineman Michael McCrary's epic insurance fraud lawsuit, which resulted in a $33.6 million judgment in June, has gotten even uglier as he seeks to recover fees from his former business partner's former lawyers.

McCrary, who has doggedly pursued his erstwhile partners in a New Orleans condominium project that was foiled by Hurricane Katrina, has asked a federal bankruptcy judge to award him the legal costs incurred in opposing an unsuccessful effort to remove the case from Baltimore City Circuit Court to federal court.

But he is not just targeting defendants Edward V. Giannasca II and Stuart C. "Neil" Fisher for reimbursement; he also has his sights set on their one-time lawyers, including William J. Murphy of the downtown Baltimore law firm Murphy & Shaffer LLC. (The firm was allowed to withdraw as defense counsel in May.)

McCrary's attorneys from William H. Murphy Jr. & Associates P.A. and DLA Piper US LLP called William J. Murphy and his co-counsel "willing participants in improprieties" -- that is, the failed attempt to remove the case to federal court -- "which should at best have been obvious to [them], and at worst in which [they] were complicit."

William J. Murphy was "deeply offended" by the allegations, his attorney, Joel I. Sher of Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler, wrote in opposing the amended motion for fees.

Murphy believes McCrary and his attorneys are simply looking for deep pockets to pay for their zealous pursuit of Giannasca and Fisher, from whom collection may be more difficult.

However, U.S. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Duncan W. Keir rejected the attorney defendants' arguments to dismiss McCrary's motion after a hearing earlier this month.

This could, according to one of McCrary's attorneys, put William J. Murphy in a very precarious position: either discuss privileged attorney-client communications to defend his own advocacy or risk owing McCrary's attorney's fees -- this on top of the nearly $200,000 in fees Giannasca has not yet paid him.

"He's going to have to, if he's going to defend himself, tell us what they told him," said Kenneth B. Frank, McCrary's attorney.

Meanwhile, back in city circuit court, a judge will hear co- defendant Tamara J. Fisher's motion for reconsideration of the $33.6 million judgment on Tuesday.

Originally published by Barbara Grzincic.

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