3:12pm PT by Matthew Belloni , Eriq Gardner
David Bergstein Wins Punitive Damages in Lawyer Trial as Verdict Reaches $50 Million
A Los Angeles jury Wednesday awarded embattled film financier David Bergstein punitive damages of $500,000 in his legal fight with an ex-lawyer, bringing the overall total award to $50 million.
Bergstein, the controversial figure whose stewardship of film companies ThinkFilm and Capitol Films has been the subject of much litigation, has been in trial against Susan Tregub, a former Bergstein in-house attorney who is accused of breaching fiduciary duties and committing malpractice by, among other things, using confidential information against him.
Tregub departed Bergstein's Capitol Films and began working for Aramid Entertainment Fund, the David Molner-fronted entity that later helped push Bergstein's companies into bankruptcy.
On Tuesday, a jury awarded $49.5 million in damages, finding that Tregub improperly breached her duties to Bergstein's company by revealing information she learned during her representation. Wednesday's award increases the total.
As The Hollywood Reporter reported earlier this month, Bergstein has blamed many of his legal troubles on Tregub, who worked for him for a decade before leaving in 2009. She is not likely to be able to pay a large financial judgment -- if it is allowed to stand -- but Bergstein could use the win as fuel to file more lawsuits charging Aramid and others with acting improperly in connection with the bankruptcy.
For instance, separate lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in April seek $100 million from two Los Angeles firms that represented Aramid and others who opposed Bergstein: Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and Levene Neale Bender Yoo & Brill.
“Defendants used the confidential information provided by Tregub to file several lawsuits, initiate involuntary bankruptcy proceedings against Bergstein-related entities and disparage Bergstein repeatedly in the press and with other entertainment industry players,” the lawsuit states.
Calls to Bergstein lawyer Lucia Coyoca and Tregub attorney Hayes Michel were not immediately returned.