Jury to get Annapolis law firm's case

June 06, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A civil case prompted by accusations from convicted Annapolis attorney Edward S. Digges Jr. against his former law partners was to go to the jury today. Ironically, Digges, a once-powerful asbestos litigator who one lawyer described as "having his footprints all over this courtroom," was not called to testify during the 3 1/2 -week-old trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Digges was brought from a federal prison in West Virginia as a supposed key trial witness. But he has sat in Baltimore City Jail since May 8 awaiting a call to the witness stand that never came.

Digges prompted the civil fray last year after he pleaded guilty to mail fraud here for defrauding Dresser Industries Inc., his major client, out of $3.1 million in an overbilling scheme.

Digges told St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., which insured the Digges, Wharton & Levin law firm for professional liability, that his former law partners, James T. Wharton and David A. Levin, knew of his fraud and even participated in it.

As a result, St. Paul filed a declaratory judgment suit claiming that it should not have to pay the multimillion-dollar negligence judgment imposed on Wharton and Levin for "vicarious liability" because they failed to monitor Digges' billings.

St. Paul claims that a "prior acts" clause in the law firm's professional liability policy voids it because all three partners knew of Digges' fraud and lied about it on their application for coverage.

The evidentiary phase of the trial ended yesterday.

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