ILNews

Past associations with Conour get lawyers named in civil suits

August 28, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

William Conour’s multi-million-dollar fraud has produced an avalanche of state and federal lawsuits naming as defendants several attorneys who used to work with the once-prominent personal-injury and wrongful-death attorney.

In state court, claims name former partners including some who helped the federal government press the wire-fraud case to which Conour pleaded guilty last month. The government accuses Conour of defrauding at least 25 clients of more than $4.5 million.

In federal court, a filing this month claims Conour and his former law firm defaulted on a line of credit, owing in total more than $600,000. Separately, Conour’s former legal malpractice carrier has sued to void coverage for his acts that it claims were intentional and therefore outside the scope of the policy.

Conour is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17, but the civil cases arising as a result of his criminal conduct may determine the liability of his former associates, help define the pool of money available for victims, and resolve who gets priority for restitution – Conour’s defrauded clients or his creditors.

The ripple effect

“I have never seen anything like this massive tragedy in nearly 40 years dealing with problems caused by Indiana lawyers,” Indianapolis attorney Jon Pactor said in an email. Pactor has filed suits in Marion Superior Court naming two former Conour partners in litigation brought by defrauded former Conour clients.

Pactor has named Thomas Doehrman, Conour’s former colleague at Conour Doehrman Attorneys at Law, in a case filed on behalf of Bradley Whiteman, a Brownsburg ironworker injured on the job in 1995. The suit claims Whiteman was deprived of his settlement that Conour Doehrman negotiated in 1999.

“Conour Doehrman negligently constructed the settlement in such a way that the Whitemans will not receive the full amount of their settlement,” the suit alleges.

Doehrman’s attorney, Philip Kalamaros of South Bend, said in an email that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. But as an affirmative defense in the case, Doehrman argues in court filings that he was never in partnership with Conour.

Doehrman “admits his corporation shared office space with William Conour from approximately 1988-2003,” the response to the suit says, but “Conour Doehrman was never in business.”

The response further “denies that the ‘law firm’ settled the case … denies ‘Conour Doehrman’ did anything at all and denies that this defendant was negligent in any way.”

Indianapolis attorney James R. Fisher, however, argues in a separate suit that Doehrman is jointly and severally liable for more than $800,000 in unpaid installments from a structured settlement. In a phone interview, Fisher said, “With law firms, as a general case, if you hold yourself out to the world as a law firm and a partnership, as far as liability goes, you are, regardless of the agreement you have inside the office.”

Conour Doehrman appeared to be a partnership, presented itself as a partnership and advertised as a partnership; it did nothing to inform consumers that it wasn’t a partnership, Fisher said.

Fisher last month sued Conour and Doehrman in Marion Superior Court on behalf of Davis Beals Sr., Loretta Beals and Kristen Beals. The Bealses were injured in a deadly crash when their vehicle was hit by a tractor-trailer; Conour Doehrman negotiated settlements. The suit accuses Doehrman of legal malpractice, conversion, securities fraud and negligence.

Daughter Kristen was left permanently disabled, with her parents serving as adult guardians, the suit says, but payments from her structured settlement stopped coming in January, depriving Kristen of monthly payments of $1,677 through the year 2047. Her parents also were deprived of 82 additional monthly payments from a structured settlement, the suit claims.

Also named in the suit Fisher filed is an entity called Structured Settlement Investment Services Ltd. The suit alleges Conour Doehrman used the entity as a shell to facilitate annual fund transfers to meet obligations of structured settlements, including those of the Bealses.

The entity “is believed to be a fictitious entity which was (doing business as) the Conour-Doehrman law firm,” Fisher alleges in the suit.

Regarding Structured Settlement Investment Services, Fisher said, “The only place that name appeared … was with the Ohio bank that set up the trust that Conour was funding on an annual basis. … As far as we can tell, it was nothing but him.”

Lawsuit by association

Pactor also has filed a suit naming former Conour firm attorney Timothy Devereux, now a partner at Ladendorf & Ladendorf. The suit alleges that after he left the Conour Devereux Hammond firm in December 2011, Devereux breached his duty by failing to inform his clients, who were being represented by co-counsel Conour, that he knew Conour was dishonest. Around the time he left the firm and afterward, Devereux was talking with investigators about Conour.

The plaintiff, Jim Love, had been injured in a construction accident in 2008 and retained a Conour firm that became Conour Devereux Hammond. The suit alleges that Devereux should have informed the Loves about Conour’s dishonesty as Devereux was ceasing to be their attorney. A few months later, Conour settled Love’s case without Love’s knowledge and stole the $120,000 settlement, some of which Conour earned, according to Pactor.

“My clients have alleged that Mr. Devereux should have informed them sufficiently about Mr. Conour so that they could have made an informed decision whether to stay with him,” Pactor said.

Devereux and his attorney in the matter, David Kasper, said they couldn’t comment about the case. Court filings in response to the complaint deny Devereux had a duty to inform the Loves when he learned of an FBI investigation.

The defense also claims that any liability should be reduced by the fault of Conour and by contributory fault of the Loves. Devereux’s letter notifying them of his departure from Conour’s firm stated, “You need only send a letter to the Conour law firm advising it that you have chosen to have me continue to represent you.”

Another suit filed in Marion Superior Court names Conour and co-defendants attorneys Thomas A. Hardin, Thomas Manges and Shine & Hardin LLP. In that case, Dustin Webb alleges that attorneys received funds from a settlement Conour negotiated for Webb’s father, Charles Webb, who died as a result of an Allen County vehicle crash.

“Defendants failed to pay plaintiff his portion of the funds,” the suit charges, while acknowledging Webb was “currently unaware of any knowledge (co-defendants) had regarding the wrongful actions” of Conour.

Co-defendants in the case filed a cross-claim against Conour that states, “Any damages that (Webb) has alleged are the direct and proximate result” of Conour’s conduct.

In U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, ACF 2006 Corp. v. William Conour, et al., 1:13-cv01286, was filed Aug. 13. ACF, a successor to Advocate Capital, claims that as of July 13, Conour owed $559,900 on a defaulted line of credit, plus fees and expenses exceeding $50,000 and 24 percent annual interest.

Devereux, former Conour associate Jeffrey A. Hammond, and their respective current firms, Ladendorf & Ladendorf and Cohen & Malad LLP, are named co-defendants in that case, which seeks to recover damages from fees paid to the attorneys by former Conour firm clients on cases the attorneys took with them after they departed.

A lawsuit aiming to deny coverage under Conour’s malpractice policy is also pending in the federal court in Indianapolis. Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co. v. William Conour, et al., 1:12-cv-01671, names a host of former Conour associates as co-defendants. Judge William T. Lawrence set a trial date of Jan. 12, 2015.

Devereux said the ACF suit is welcome in a sense because it will help clarify the priority of claims against a restitution fund held by the federal court in Conour’s criminal case. “We’re sort of off the map at this point,” he said. “Somebody has got to work out what’s the proper division of those fees. … I need a court to tell me where the money goes,” Devereux said.

So far, the restitution fund includes just a few thousand dollars more than the $450,000 donation that Conour made to Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, which the university has returned to the court.

“It’s a horrible situation and nobody’s happy with anything,” Fisher said. “It bothers lawyers who are involved in it as well as those who aren’t.”

“The emotional pain of (Conour’s) former clients, his family, his former friends (including me), and his fellow attorneys runs very deep,” Pactor wrote. “He also delivered a fierce body blow to the entire legal profession.”•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Who's really guilty?
    What good would it have done if ANY of these attorneys, mentioned above, reported Conour to the IN Disciplinary Commission? He WAS turned by an attorney in his office in 2006 when Conour refused to pay a mutual client in a nursing home her settlement money. What did the Commission do? NOTHING. Not a peep, a warning to the public, or even a slap on the hand. Worse yet, they continued to let him practice and defraud more clients, ruin more lives, and steal millions. Why then, isn’t the Disciplinary Commission being held liable for being complicit?

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

ADVERTISEMENT