Frank Azar’s trial against former head of class action division begins
Frank Azar, whose countless commercials and ubiquitous billboards have made him the region’s best known lawyer, will begin a trial Monday with millions of dollars at stake.
But rather than represent the plaintiff, his firm will be the plaintiff.
In February 2020, Franklin D. Azar & Associates sued a former class action lawyer at the firm, Ivy Ngo. It accused Ngo of using confidential information to recruit its clients and other Azar & Associates lawyers to a competing law firm after Ngo was fired from the Azar firm.
In October of that year, Ngo countersued, claiming Azar and his firm had spread lies and defamed her as part of “a smear campaign” aimed at destroying her career.
A jury chosen Monday must decide both matters: whether Ngo committed a breach of contract, and whether Azar, along with Azar & Associates, committed defamation. Azar believes Ngo owes about $90,000 for the breach and should have to pay his attorneys’ fees. Ngo believes Azar owes $3 million to $3.5 million for the defamation and should pay her attorneys’ fees.
The 10-day trial in Denver District Court will offer a peek behind the doors of Azar & Associates, the powerhouse personal injury firm that Azar started in Aurora in 1987.
But jurors in the case will not hear some of the more salacious allegations that Ngo has leveled against Azar. Judge David Goldberg has barred Ngo’s lawyers from accusing Azar of abusing drugs and alcohol in his office, exhibiting “erratic behavior,” making improper payments to clients, and committing sexual, racial and pregnancy discrimination.
Ngo was the head of the class action division at Azar & Associates between January 2018 and January 2020. Azar claims she was then rightly fired for trying to lure lawyers and clients away from the firm; Ngo says she was wrongfully fired for looking at other jobs.
Ngo claims that after she was fired, Azar contacted her clients and prospective employers and falsely told them she had stolen trade secrets and mishandled confidential information. Azar denies that he defamed Ngo when talking with clients and other law firms.
Ngo now works as a class action attorney with the Miami office of Freedman Normand Friedland.
In a related case, Azar is suing his law firm’s insurance company in federal court because it has only agreed to cover 10 percent of the costs he has incurred defending against Ngo’s claims. Azar is suing to force it to cover 100 percent of the costs. The case is ongoing.
In an unrelated case, Azar is also battling the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. Tax Court over a 2017 tax bill and suing two of his former accountants in Arapahoe County District Court over their alleged negligence that led to that tax bill. The Tax Court case is scheduled for trial in January and the accountant case is scheduled for trial in May.
This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.
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