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March 2014 - Troubled Waters Over Bridge

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

You heard it here first: Simon and Garfunkel had it backwards. The most important subject is not troubled waters, but bridge. As my late father would have said: “who would have thunk it.”

I am a little out of my element here, because I have never played bridge. In fact, I probably haven’t played any cards since Canasta was in vogue. Dominoes yes, cards not so much. To some, and for all I know too many, bridge is a really big deal, and to the folks in Florida (“God’s waiting room”), the Fort Lauderdale Bridge Club is the place to play.

Unfortunately, it was dealt a bad hand. By one of its members. An otherwise retired “big firm” lawyer. I won’t mention the big firm from which the lawyer retired because that might not be fair to Paul Hastings. In any event, the club is now in Chapter 11 seeking protection from its former member, one Samuel Rosen. In fact, according to reports, Mr. Rosen sought to convert the bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7, but ultimately withdrew his motion.

Mr. Rosen, formerly of New York and now of Bal Harbour, joined the club but was allegedly asked to leave in 2010 for purported “behavior issues” according to The Daily Business Review, citing court documents.

Mr. Rosen did not take being tossed out lightly. He did what every red-blooded former New York litigator would do. He sued. And sued some more. In state and federal courts.

Through Broward County lawsuits, and I counted three on the court’s website, Mr. Rosen succeeded in getting court-ordered reinstatement, apparently because the club’s board didn’t have a quorum when it voted to give Rosen his walking papers. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Somewhere along the line, he also filed a federal civil rights suit against the club, its members, and, not to be left out, the City of Fort Lauderdale. I am not sure how civil rights were involved, lest bridge players are a protected class, but I digress. Voluntarily or involuntarily, the case was ultimately dismissed last fall.

Finally, in February of 2013, the club filed for Chapter 11 to create breathing room “from the onslaught” of Mr. Rosen’s litigation. In doing so, the club failed to consider the ancient warning, “be careful what you wish for.”

According to recent reports, there are at least 600 entries in the bankruptcy court’s docket which would no doubt overwhelm my PACER devoted credit card’s limits, to say nothing of swamping my intellectual curiosity, which I concede is hampered by a low boredom threshold.

The first bankruptcy trustee threw in the towel, saying in a letter to the U.S. Trustee that “the focus of the case should be in reorganizing the debtor, not depleting estate funds in dealing with frivolous allegations of a serial litigant.”

The successor trustee, not surprisingly, declined to renew Mr. Rosen’s membership for 2014. This act drew a rebuke from Mr. Rosen that has since drawn unflattering (at least to Mr. Rosen) media attention: “At the cost of being blunt, permit me to resort to scatological commentary to tell you Joel [the trustee’s first name] that you’re about the most untrustworthy, double-dealing sack of s–t I’ve met in I can’t remember how long.”

I suspect the original letter did not have the “—” omissions and the “h” and “i” were deleted from the article due to the perceived sensitivities of the reading public, but who knows. Mr. Rosen’s lawyer is quoted as saying, in remarkable understatement, that he was “disappointed” that the letter was filed with the court instead of remaining private. You think? Of course, Mr. Rosen had also testified in deposition that he was “an Old Testament guy [who believed in] two eyes for an eye and three teeth for a tooth.” I am glad my dentist doesn’t think that way, but again, I digress.

In one of the most unusual outgrowths of the litigation “onslaught,” the club’s insurance carrier reportedly declined to renew without carving out a “Rosen exception” to its defense obligations. That has to catapult Mr. Rosen into the big time. I don’t think that bank insurers had a “Willie Sutton exception,” nor railroad carriers a “Jesse James exception.” Let’s face it; you have really got someone’s attention when a carrier names you as an exception to coverage.

It sounds like this case will go on until the last card is played in spite of the fact that, in my view, one of the players is not playing with a full deck. Mr. Rosen should have heeded Groucho Marx, who famously refused to belong to any club that would have him as a member.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is a member of the firm of Millar, Hodges & Bemis in Newport Beach. He can be reached at millar@mhblaw.net.

 
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