Miami-Dade judge tosses Avra Jain’s $15M lawsuit against former attorneys

In 2017, the Miami developer sued law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and shareholder Richard A. Morgan for malpractice

Avra Jain and Vagabond Hotel (Credit: Google Maps)
Avra Jain and Vagabond Hotel (Credit: Google Maps)

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has derailed developer Avra Jain’s efforts to collect $15 million from a law firm that represented her in an unsuccessful court case.

Hanzman dismissed Jain’s complaint on March 13 by granting summary judgment for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and its shareholder Richard A. Morgan. The firm had represented the Vagabond Group co-founder in a lawsuit brought against her by a former business associate.

On April 19, Hanzman denied Jain’s motion to reconsider his ruling.

Jain had sued Morgan and his law firm in 2017 for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. She had accused her former attorneys of making an amateur mistake while defending her against Abraham Cohen, who won an $8.2 million final judgment the same year against her, her company H-H Investments LLC and investor Paul Cashman Murphy.

In his March 13th order, Hanzman characterized Jain’s lawsuit as a “bankrupt legal malpractice claim, which is nothing more than a misguided and desperate attempt to shift Jain’s adjudicated contractual liability onto her former counsel.”

The judge added, “But like most Hail Mary’s, this throw falls far short of the end zone.” In his April 19 order, Hanzman opined that Jain’s loss of the Cohen case was “not due to any fault on the part of her former counsel.”

Jain, whose projects include the Vagabond Hotel and the Bayside Motor Inn on Biscayne Boulevard and a planned Miami River mixed-use project, did not return multiple voicemail and text messages seeking comment. Her attorneys, including famed constitutional lawyer Bruce Rogow, also did not return emails requesting comment.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Through a spokesperson, Buchanan Ingersoll declined comment.

Jain can still file an appeal to the Third District Court of Appeals.

The dispute’s roots lie in a failed real estate deal between Cohen, Jain, Murphy and H-H Investments. Three years ago, Cohen sued Jain, Murphy and her company, alleging he was owed roughly $4.5 million for a planned luxury condo project likely near Trump National Doral Miami when they stopped making payments on a promissory note he had provided.

In a counterclaim for fraud and misrepresentation, Jain and the other defendants alleged Cohen lied about the project to get them to invest, and deceived them into buying him out of the deal.

Jain, who last year sold her waterfront home for $7.5 million, specifically alleged that Cohen tore up the promissory note when she confronted him about his alleged deception. But her attorneys from Buchanan Ingersoll failed to ensure Cohen’s attorneys had the original note.

In January 2017, Cohen won an $8.2 million final judgement, and later that year Jain sued Morgan and Buchanan Ingersoll for malpractice. In his April 19 order, Hanzman noted that Jain’s allegation about Cohen ripping up the promissory note was rejected at trial.

“And the fact that the original note was never introduced into evidence had nothing
to do with the adverse judgment entered against Jain on her guaranty,” Hanzman wrote. “That judgment was entered because the debt was admittedly outstanding, and Jain’s defenses failed to carry the day.”