Victims seek civil judgement as Murdaugh, Laffitte await what's next
Bluffton Today (SC)
Just one day after Richard "Alex" Murdaugh co-conspirator Russell Lucius Laffitte's guilty verdict in federal criminal court, attorneys for two of Laffitte's victims filed a motion asking the state civil courts to hasten judgement on their behalf.
Laffitte, the former Palmetto State Bank CEO, was found guilty Nov. 22 on six federal criminal charges that he conspired with Murdaugh, the disbarred and disgraced former Hampton attorney, to steal or misuse funds while acting as a conservator for several of Murdaugh's personal injury or wrongful death cases.
Two of the alleged victims of Laffitte and Murdaugh, Hannah Plyler and Alania Spohn, filed a civil suit Aug. 24, seeking damages in the Hampton County Court of Common Pleas against Laffitte and his former bank, which was founded by and remains controlled by his family.
On Nov. 23, Bland Richter LLP, attorneys for Plyler and Spohn, filed a motion for partial summary judgement against Laffitte and the bank, asking the courts to hasten judgement on their behalf in light of the guilty verdicts, along with testimony and evidence brought forth during Laffitte's trail.
"On behalf of the Plylers, our other clients and the other victims of Russell Laffitte and Palmetto State Bank, we applaud the wisdom of the jury to see through the confusion that the defense tried to create, as well as the courage of the jury to remind those in power to watch the hell out," attorney Eric Bland said in a news release emailed last week.
Latest motion in the alleged Murdaugh-Laffitte conspiracy cases
The motion cites evidence and testimony brought forth during Laffitte's bond hearing and his trail, as well as in two YouTube video interviews Laffitte participated in prior to and during his trial, that Bland Richter says support their claim of liability against Laffitte and his former bank.
The motion contends that during the court proceedings and videos, Laffitte admitted that he breached his duties to the victim plaintiffs, admitted that he had "civil liability for his conduct," and admitted that Laffitte knew he had made mistakes.
The motion also seeks a partial summary judgement against Palmetto State Bank, claiming that it "is liable for having aided and abetted Laffitte's breach of fiduciary duty" and the bank failed to take any action to intervene or supervise Laffitte's handling of the victims' accounts.
"It is a very explosive motion and one in which the admissions and statements made by Russ Laffitte and his counsel Bart Daniel may boomerang against them," Bland said in Nov. 28 news release. "If granted, the trial will go forward on damages only."
Given the evidence presented in criminal court, the motion seeks a quick ruling on the matter of liability in this civil matter, leaving only the matter of actual and punitive financial damages to be resolved.
Attorneys for Laffitte and Palmetto State Bank did not return emails seeking comment Monday.
Who are Hannah Plyler and Alania Spohn?
On July 16, 2005, Plyler and Spohn, who were children at the time, were involved in a car crash along Hampton County's stretch of Interstate 95 that left their mother and brother dead. That same year, their family retained the services of Murdaugh, who was working as a partner in his family's PMPED law firm, in a wrongful death suit.
Murdaugh filed and won a total of four lawsuits on their behalf, suing Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone Corporation, among others, then appointed Laffitte as the legal conservator of the settlements funds for the juvenile clients.
During the years that followed, until the girls turned 18, Murdaugh and Laffitte allegedly misused the victim's money, often in the form of low-interest loans to themselves, then allegedly stole money from other Murdaugh clients to replace the funds.
What's next for Russell Laffitte and Alex Murdaugh?
Laffitte was found guilty of bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and three counts of misapplication of bank funds after a trial that began Nov. 8.
His legal defense team has two weeks to file any appeals.
No date has been set for his sentencing, and the disgraced Hampton banker will remain out of jail on bond with no objections from federal prosecutors, as he has complied with bond restricts so far with no violations. A sentencing hearing could be weeks or even months down the road.
Laffitte is also facing similar bank and wire fraud charges from the South Carolina State Grand Jury as part of the same criminal conspiracy. No trial date has been set for those charges.
Murdaugh is facing more than 90 criminal charges from the State Grand Jury, as well as local indictments.
He is also accused of murdering his wife, Maggie, and son Paul at their Colleton County home on June 7, 2021.
While no trial date has been set for his financial crimes, Murdaugh is scheduled to stand trial on the double murder and weapons charges on Jan. 23, 2023, in Colleton County.
Murdaugh is also facing lawsuits, 11 in state court and one federal, and remains jailed in Richland County on a $7 million bond he has been unable to meet.