Judge: Peter Vrdolyak did nothing wrong by referring client for high-interest loan
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter April 1, 2014 3:54PM
Updated: May 3, 2014 6:23AM
The personal injury lawyer son of former Chicago Ald. “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak did nothing wrong when he referred a broke train crash victim to a lender who charged her 60 percent interest, a federal judge has ruled.
Metra rail crash victim Debbie Crim, 55, accused Peter Vrdolyak and his Vrdolyak Law Group of secretly teaming up with the “predatory” lender to shake her down while she waited for a $2.4 million payout he’d helped her win.
But Judge Robert Dow ruled this week that there was no evidence Peter Vrdolyak had any financial relationship with Client Funding Solutions, the lender he referred her to when she hit hard times.
“No evidence demonstrates that Peter Vrdolyak acted dishonestly, in bad faith, or contrary to Crim’s interests,” Dow wrote in a 28-page ruling that brings Crim’s four-year civil case to an end.
Though a jury last year also sided with Peter Vrdolyak on several other counts, the case shone an unflattering light on lenders who target Chicago’s most desperate litigants.
Crim had hired the Vrdolyak family law firm to represent her after she injured her spine, neck, shoulders and arms in 2001 when a Metra train she was riding on hit a car at a South Side railroad crossing.
Unable to work and beset by bills for surgeries, medicine and household expenses as her lawsuit against the motorist who caused the accident dragged on, she asked Peter Vrdolyak for a personal loan in 2005.
He instead referred her to Miles Lustig, whose business CFS loaned her $108,500.
With interest, Crim eventually had to pay CFS back $413,000 — a sum she balked at.
Though Vrdolyak’s own lawyers admitted at trial last year that the rates of 45 to 60 percent that CFS charged were “ridiculous and unfair,” Dow wrote in his ruling this week that there was no evidence that the rates “were materially different from the rates charged by others in the market for high-risk clients like Crim.”
The lawsuit may have had uncomfortable echoes for the Vrdolyaks of the Illinois Bar Association’s decision in 2000 to censure “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak for improperly advancing money to clients.
But reacting to Judge Dow’s ruling Tuesday afternoon, Peter Vrdolyak said that had nothing to do with his case.
“I’m happy that the judge and the jury saw it for what it was,” he said.