Connected LV Lawyers Sued For Malpractice
POWER AND PRIVILEGE -
Ex-LV Mayor Jan Jones-Blackhurst
(L to R) Ex-LV Mayor Oscar Goodman with his protégés Gardner
Jolly and David Chesnoff
(Inside Vegas photo by Mike Christ)
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 3, 2014
LAS VEGAS - On October 24, 2014, Caesars
Palace cocktail server Michelle McKenna filed a malpractice lawsuit in
U.S. Federal Court against her former attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard
McKenna claims that Chesnoff has an undisclosed
financial interest in PURE, a night club inside Caesar's Palace, and also
did not reveal that he represented a PURE executive in a tax evasion case
during the pendency of a personal injury action she hired Chesnoff to prosecute.
McKenna claims that in order to protect
Chesnoff's conflicting interests, he and his law partner Schonfeld intentionally
failed to name PURE or Caesars as defendants prior to the expiration of
the five year statute of limitations, and did not adequately investigate
or prosecute her case after she was strangled in her workplace by a PURE
patron with connections to a top Caesars executive. Consequently, Michelle's
case languished until one month before the statute of limitations ran out,
and she was forced to accept only a fraction of her damages in a hasty
settlement paid by ex-LV Mayor Jan Jones-Blackhurst's homeowner's insurance.
According to the complaint, "Plaintiff
Michelle McKenna (Michelle), was a cocktail waitress at PURE Nightclub
(Pure) in Caesars Palace. On January 3, 2009, Michelle was brutally attacked
by Patrick Jones (Jones), who is the son of Caesars Vice President, Jan
Leavitt (Leavitt), Pures Director of Customer Development, was assigned
to host Jones and his friends.located in Michelles section. Leavitt explained
to Michelle that Jones mother worked for Harrahs and that the tables
bill should be charged to Blackhursts comp number. While at Pure, Jones
and his friends were served $3,446.02 worth of beverages, which included
five bottles of liquor. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of January
4, 2009, Jones asked Michelle to sit on his lap. When Michelle refused
his advances and turned to leave, Jones pulled her into his lap. Michelle
threw his hands off of her, jumped up, turned around to face him, and began
to explain that his conduct was inappropriate. Jones responded by calling
her a f***ing bitch and making inappropriate gestures. Michelle looked
for help, but did not see a single security guard. Seeing Assistant General
Manager, Dan Bondy, across the room, Michelle waved for him to come over.
However, before Bondy was able to make his way over to Michelle, Jones
lunged at her, placed his hands around her throat, and began choking and
shaking her. Struggling against Jones and unable to breathe, Michelle blacked
out and fell. When Bondy arrived, he wrestled Jones, who was 6 1 tall
and weighed 220 pounds, off of Michelle and began walking him away from
Michelle. Jones remained very aggressive struggling to break free of
Bondys grasp, using profanity, and threatening to use his parents influence
to have Bondy fired. Still gasping for air, Michelle made her way off the
main floor while Bondy and a security guard, Alex Walker, escorted Jones
safely out of the club through the back door."
After McKenna regained consciousness, she
was taken to her car and told to drive herself home.
McKenna's new lawsuit brings claims against
Chesnoff & Schonfeld for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty,
and deceptive trade practices, but the underlying story reveals the extent
of power and privilege in our city.
FULL 20 PAGE LAWSUIT: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/MichelleMcKennaFedLawsuit.pdf
The day after she was attacked, McKenna
received a call from an old friend. Her complaint explains: "Although
Michelle was acquainted with Bruce Becker, owner of Becker Gaming, the
two had not spoken for some time. On January 6, 2009, Becker called Michelle
and urged her to retain Defendants Chesnoff and Schonfeld to represent
her in a personal injury action. Upon information and belief, Bruce
Becker and the Becker family were close, long-term friends of Blackhurst,
and both Blackhurst and Becker were friends of Chesnoff. Unaware
of Chesnoff and Beckers connection to the Jones family, Michelle took
Beckers advice and retained Chesnoff & Schonfeld."
That's when Michelle McKenna's legal nightmare
failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the underlying case, including,
but not limited to, the following acts and omissions: a. Defendants did
not bring any claims against Pure or Caesars within the applicable statute
of limitations; b. Defendants did not conduct an adequate investigation;
they failed to request key documents from the defendant and third-parties;
and they did not interview and/or depose material witnesses; c. Defendants
did not seek damages for lost wages and future care totaling millions of
dollars; d. Defendants did not retain an economic expert to quantify Michelles
damages; e. Defendants did not provide evidence or produce documents that
were necessary to prove the amount of Michelles damages."
Two months before the statute of limitation
was to expire, McKenna reached out to her friends for advice. She was reportedly
told that she had been set up by Becker, and she must fire Chesnoff and
Schonfeld immediately. McKenna fired the two lawyers the next day and went
searching for new - unconflicted - counsel.
four and a half years of unexplained delays, virtually no communication
from the Defendants regarding the case, and effectively no progress, Michelle
was worried about her case and sought new counsel. Ultimately, Michelle
was able to retain the law firm of Cohen & Padda, who resolved the
case for her. Even after Cohen and Padda had filed a substitution of counsel,
Defendants took more than a month to transfer Michelles file to her new
counsel, which further prejudiced her case."
Cohen & Padda sought to remedy and mitigate the effects of Defendants
inadequate representation, it was too late to cure many of Defendants
failures: a. All claims against Pure and Caesars were already barred by
the statute of limitations; b. Cohen & Padda did not have adequate
time to secure the additional evidence necessary to prove her claims; and
c. Cohen & Padda were barred from producing additional documents necessary
to prove Michelles claims because of Defendants delays.
Michelles expert (retained by Cohen & Padda) valued her damages as
more than $10,000,000.00, Defendants errors forced Michelle to settle
for $225,000.00 from Blackhursts homeowners insurance less than 5%
of her actual damages."
According to the Oct. 28, 2014 Las Vegas
"The lawsuit claims Pure and Caesars tried to help Jones escape civil and
criminal liability for his actions."
McKenna's amended complaint filed by her
new attorneys in 2013 following the firing of Chesnoff and Schonfeld, mentioned
"conspiracy" for the first time, but because it was filed after the statute
of limitations was purposefully allowed to expire, the following information
was never allowed to be presented to a jury:
Being that Patrick Jones was the only defendant
named by Chesnoff in the initial lawsuit, it was obvious that Chesnoff
fully knew that Patrick had no personal assets, and Chesnoff's failure
to name other responsible parties including McKenna's employer, was diliberate,
I know David Chesnoff and consider him to be one of the most competent
lawyers in Las Vegas, therefore I believe he conspired against Michelle
McKenna to ruin her case through multiple delays as a favor possibly to
Jones-Blackhurst, Pure, or Caesars.
During a last minute settlement conference,
Patrick's mother revealed that her son was living in her home at the time
of the incident, and that her homeowner's insurance carrier would offer
the limit of her policy, $300,000.00, to facilitate a quick settlement.
Then, to sweeten the pot, sources tell INSIDE VEGAS that Jones-Blackhurst
personally threw in an additional $50,000.00.
Before McKenna signed off on the settlement,
her friends protested saying homeowner's insurance does not cover criminal
acts. They were reminded that then-Clark County District Attorney David
Roger had refused all requests for criminal prosecution of Patrick Jones
for his brutal act, therefore no criminal act had officially occurred,
and Patrick's actions were somehow covered by his mother's homeowner's
Jan Jones-Blackhurst is Executive Vice
President, Communications & Government
Relations for Caesars Entertainment Corporation. She is responsible
for approving the company's political campaign contributions including
those made to candidates running for Clark County District Attorney.
According to McKenna's claim: "Since
the date of the attack, Michelle has seen more than 14 medical providers
many of them specialists but continues to suffer from the debilitating
effects of the attack. In the years since the attack, Michelle has suffered
severe headaches, vertigo and dizziness, blackout/fainting spells, balance
and coordination problems, blurred vision, nausea, and severe cognitive
impairments. Diagnostic tests later revealed that Michelles injuries included
a crushed larynx, damaged jugular veins, and a traumatic brain injury.
Based on her injuries and need for future care, Michelles expert estimated
her damages in excess of $10 million."
Facing hundreds of thousands of dollars
in unpaid medical bills, and foreclosure on her home, McKenna reluctantly
accepted Jones-Blackhurst's offer. Then to add insult to injury,
Chesnoff demanded to be paid $65,000.00 for his legal "services," and Patrick
and his friends were welcomed back at PURE as VIP comped guests of Jones-Blackhurst.
Chesnoff and Schonfeld are former
law partners and protégés of ex-LV Mayor Oscar Goodman,
the successor of former LV Mayor Jan Jones- Blackhurst. Goodman is best
known for being the former mob lawyer who represented Tony "The ant" Spilotro,
and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.
One year after the settlement, Michelle
McKenna sought new counsel. She contacted the Bailey Kennedy law firm in
Las Vegas, a firm known for their knowledge of Ethics and Professional
According to their website,
of the legal profession in every state are bound by a code of professional
conduct. While each states rules are unique, most are based upon
the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, first adopted in 1983 and
amended in 2002. These rules govern the conduct of lawyers as members
of the legal profession, representatives of clients, officers of the courts
and as public citizens having special responsibilities for the quality
The legal profession is largely self-governing,
and violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct can have serious adverse
consequences for individual lawyers and their law firms in terms of professional
licensure and discipline as well as civil and criminal liability.
Bailey Kennedy has extensive knowledge and experience in this area.
We have represented clients in all types of professional responsibility
matters, including: Malpractice plaintiff and defense."
On April 18, 2009, six months after the
attack, Patrick Jones and his friends were back in PURE as VIP guests of
VEGAS broke this story on December 30, 2013. In the ensuing nine months,
no media outlet dared expand on my coverage. In that column, I complained:
"This is the first time this story has been told, but in today's
Las Vegas, its no wonder. Caesars Entertainment wields tremendous influence
over our media and public officials. The name Jan Jones is sacrosanct around
here, and I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for local media to pick
up this story."
Since December 30, 2013, something happened
that could effect news coverage of Michelle McKenna's story. According
to the Oct. 17, 2014 Associated Press article "As debt mounts, Caesars
in talks with lenders" by Kimberly Pierceall: "Caesars Entertainment said
Friday it is prepared to start formal discussions with some of its bank
lenders as it works to reduce its debt and stave off what some see as near
According to the instant case: "Patrick
Jones is the son of Blackhurst and Fletcher Ted Jones, Jr. Jones
had a history of abusing alcohol and illegal drugs. Upon information and
belief, Jones had a history of violent and/or aggressive behavior as a
teen and young adult."
Based on mounting financial problems, Caesars
Palace does not need negative publicity at this time. Therefore, one of
their top executives enabling violent actions within their resort should
arouse Caesars Entertainment stockholder's
attention, and put an end to the obscene power and privilege that allowed
this injustice to occur.
Former Pure server files malpractice suit against lawyers
in attack case
By CARRI GEER THEVENOT
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Oct. 28, 2014