Conn. Supreme Court to Take Up Ex-NFL Player’s Fraud Claim Against Lawyers

September 14, 2011

The Connecticut Supreme Court will take up a fraud lawsuit by ex-NFL player and investment firm founder Bob Simms against his ex-wife’s lawyers, brushing aside a lower court decision barring the claim.

Simms, a linebacker who played for the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1960s, accuses his former wife, Donna Simms, and her lawyers of failing to disclose a nearly $360,000 inheritance during a legal fight over alimony he pays. Her lawyers deny the allegations.

Simms, of Greenwich, said that lawyers must not be allowed immunity from lawsuits.

“The world should know these six lawyers committed fraud against the applicant,” Simms said, referring to himself. “The question is can they be held liable for fraud?”

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the court will take up the case. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Lawyers for Simms’ ex-wife did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

One of the lawyers, Susan Moch, said in June when the state Appellate Court ruled against Simms that the allegation that she concealed something from the court is ridiculous. “Unfortunately, this was an extraordinarily bitter case that’s been going on since 1979,” she said.

The Appellate Court, Connecticut’s second-highest court, ruled 2-1 in June that Simms could not sue the lawyers because of absolute immunity that shields judges and lawyers from civil lawsuits in connection with their actions in court. Its intent is to promote people speaking freely at judicial proceedings without fear of being sued and avoid hindering a lawyer’s advocacy for his or her client.

Judge Thomas Bishop wrote in his dissent that lawyers need to be held accountable for fraudulent acts.

Bob and Donna Simms married in 1961 and divorced in 1979. As part of the divorce settlement, Bob Simms was ordered to pay Donna Simms alimony. The legal wrangling resumed in 1989, when she filed motions to increase the alimony while he sought to decrease or eliminate it.

Simms has been trying to sue his ex-wife’s lawyers since 2009 for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The attorneys named in the complaint are Moch, Penny Seaman, Kenneth Bartschi, Brendon Levesque and Karen Dowd, all of whom represented Donna Simms in state Superior Court and appeals court proceedings from 2005 to 2008.

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