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Past associations with Conour get lawyers named in civil suits

August 28, 2013
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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.”•
 

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  • 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?

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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