CINCINNATI — The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dashed Jimmy Flynt’s hopes to revive a legal malpractice claim against former lawyer Paul Cambria.
A three-judge appellate panel on Friday affirmed Cambria’s motion for summary judgment on all claims in the $20 million that alleged malpractice, as well as tortious interference.
The suit against Cambria also roped in members of his law firm, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP, which were named in the initial complaint filed at Cincinnati federal court.
Cambria, longtime counsel for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, asserted to the court that Jimmy Flynt couldn’t prove they had an actual attorney-client relationship from 2001 to 2009, the time during which he claims he lost out on lucrative business opportunities during a larger legal battle with his famous brother, Larry, over Hustler-related businesses.
But despite the lack of any agreements between Cambria and Jimmy Flynt during those key dates in question, there was an attorney-client relationship between them, Jimmy Flynt’s attorney argued.
His counsel represented to the court that it was Cambria, along with other attorneys at the firm, who orchestrated a plan to squeeze Jimmy Flynt out of the Hustler Cincinnati store with the Hustler trademark by choosing between the brothers and leaving him in the dust.
On Friday, the appeals court said they disagreed with Jimmy Flynt’s points raised in the complaint.
“First, there is no evidence of an express contract. It is true that Cambria represented Jimmy in the 1976 and 1998 criminal prosecutions,” the appeals court wrote. “Yet under Ohio law, as under the law of most states, the attorney-client relationship ends when the lawyer completes the task for which he was hired — each criminal case in this instance.
“Nor is there evidence that Larry’s 2001 retainer with Lipsitz Green encompassed representation of Jimmy or Hustler Cincinnati.”
The appeals court also ruled that the evidence shows that Jimmy and Hustler Cincinnati never formed an implied attorney-client relationship with the Lipsitz Green lawyers.
“Jimmy never shared any confidential information with four of these attorneys: Jonathan Brown, Michael Deal, Joseph Gumkowski and Jeffrey Reina,” the appeals court said. “Nor could Jimmy identify any legal advice about Hustler Cincinnati that he received from them, even when asked during his deposition.
“Cambria, on the other hand, admits that Jimmy shared confidential information with him. But all of this information related to Jimmy’s work as an employee of the Hustler enterprise, not to Jimmy personally or to his role as Hustler Cincinnati’s owner.”
Jimmy Flynt and Hustler Cincinnati also have not pointed to any evidence that they paid Lipsitz Green for legal services, the appeals court said.
“The absence of bills is all the more striking because Jimmy made numerous payments to Lou Sirkin, who represented Hustler Cincinnati throughout the relevant period—from 2000 to 2009,” the appeals court wrote.
“If we follow the money, it leads to Sirkin, not Lipsitz Green, as the attorney for Jimmy and Hustler Cincinnati.”
Because Jimmy Flynt cannot prove legal malpractice against any of Lipsitz Green’s attorneys, he also fails to allege malpractice against the firm, the appeals court wrote.
“None of this is to say that Cambria and Lipsitz Green acted wisely in their dealings with Hustler Cincinnati,” the appeals court wrote. “The lawyer and firm should have explicitly defined the scope of their representation of Larry and his companies. That is particularly true in the context of a complex, privately held corporation where the risk that business and personal relationships will blur increases.
“Although no reasonable jury could find that an attorney-client relationship existed here, the case is closer than it should have been.”
When reached Saturday morning, Cambria said Jimmy Flynt’s arguments in the case were flawed from the beginning.
“We have always maintained it was baseless, and all the judges unanimously agreed with us. It's closed as far as I am concerned,” Cambria told XBIZ.
However, Jimmy Flynt indicated that the case still may be not over.
"We are evaluating the opinion and considering our options," Jimmy Flynt told XBIZ. "That said, I'm disappointed with the opinion and with the courts unwillingness to let us present our case to a jury."
Pictured: Jimmy Flynt