Client sues lawyer over loan default Suit claims he failed to give proper advice

June 14, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Prominent Westminster defense attorney Stephen P. Bourexis is being sued for legal malpractice by a longtime friend and client who has lent the lawyer $40,000 since 1981, according to a suit filed last week in Carroll Circuit Court.

Esther P. Lynn of the 300 block of Hook Road in Westminster is seeking almost $83,000 in damages from Mr. Bourexis. In her 13-count suit, Ms. Lynn says that Mr. Bourexis failed to pay back the loans according to schedule and that the lawyer "did not use that degree of care and skill which a reasonably competent lawyer" would use in drawing up the loan agreements.

"I reacted with shock and surprise when I heard of this suit," Mr. Bourexis said yesterday afternoon. "I've always had a clear understanding that whenever she wanted to collect, at any time, I would pay the amount owing."

The attorney said that he and his lawyer, Charles O. Fisher Jr. of Westminster, had been working since December on a settlement agreement with Ms. Lynn. Mr. Bourexis said that he was prepared to secure the loans -- one in 1981 for $25,000 and one in 1987 for $15,000 -- with property he owns in Baltimore County.

"I thought we were going to have this thing settled," Mr. Bourexis said.

Mr. Fisher, who said he hadn't yet read the suit, declined to comment on it yesterday afternoon.

Attempts to reach Ms. Lynn and her attorney, Jac E. Knust, were unsuccessful yesterday.

The suit says Ms. Lynn -- a longtime friend and frequent client of Mr. Bourexis -- wrote a $25,000 check to the lawyer on May 26, 1981.

The money was lent at an interest rate of 11.75 percent, and Mr. Bourexis was to pay back the money within three years, the suit states.

Mr. Bourexis "did not pay the principal or interest when due," but he did make payments totaling $11,687 toward the loan, according to the suit.

Mr. Bourexis, on March 3, 1987, borrowed another $15,000 from Ms. Lynn.

Ms. Lynn has "made repeated demands for moneys due and owing," but Mr. Bourexis has "failed to make the agreed-upon payments," the suit states.

Mr. Bourexis said yesterday that he has never refused to pay Ms. Lynn and that he hopes to come to an agreement with Mr. Knust by tonight. He said he at no time misled Ms. Lynn about the loan agreements.

Ms. Lynn is seeking the $40,000 she lent Mr. Bourexis plus $34,133 in unpaid interest and $8,845 in attorneys' fees.

As Ms. Lynn's lawyer, Mr. Bourexis was able to exploit his professional relationship with her to his advantage, the suit charges.

"By virtue of the attorney-client relationship, [Mr. Bourexis] came to learn about [Ms. Lynn's] business and financial affairs and the fact that she had monetary funds exceeding her immediate needs," the suit states.

What Mr. Bourexis should have done, the suit suggests, was tell Ms. Lynn to get another lawyer to draw up any agreement between them. Mr. Bourexis "failed to give . . . proper legal advice," the suit states.

The lawyer -- the bulk of whose practice is criminal defense work -- borrowed the money from Ms. Lynn because he needed it and she offered to lend it, said Judith S. Stainbrook, Mr. Bourexis' law partner.

"This is not one of those instances where the lawsuit speaks for itself," Ms. Stainbrook said.

Although Mr. Bourexis testified last year during his unsuccessful $10.5 million lawsuit against the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force that his firm's annual income is about $200,000, at times he has had to borrow money to pay some of the practice's expenses, Ms. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Bourexis -- through his flamboyant presence and penchant for courtroom theatrics -- has gained a reputation as a maverick within Carroll legal circles.

He has represented two of the three people in the county ever to be charged under Maryland's drug kingpin statute, several convicted drug dealers, a convicted child molester and, most recently, imprisoned Westminster marijuana-rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis.

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