A woman who won dismissal of a lawsuit that was filed against her by the oldest son of a late Texas real estate mogul — who alleged she once his father’s mistress and had committed extortion — was awarded more than $35,000 in attorney’s fees.
Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Helen Zukin on Tuesday ruled that Marsana De Monserat was entitled to $35,460 and $525 in costs from Bradford A. Phillips.
On Sept. 20, Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Mark H. Epstein issued a final ruling granting De Monserat’s motion to toss Bradford A. Phillips’ lawsuit under the state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — law, which is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
The plaintiff is appealing the dismissal of his suit, which was brought Jan. 21 and also alleged both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. His father, Gene Erlo Phillips, started from humble beginnings in South Carolina and grew his Dallas-based real estate empire into one worth more than $3.5 billion, the suit stated.
Prior to his 2019 death at age 82, Gene Phillips was the adviser to a management company that ran three publicly traded real estate investment companies. He also was affiliated with many privately held entities affiliated with his estate and some of the companies made loans and provided business opportunities and cash to De Monserat when he was alive, the suit stated.
Bradford Phillips, the executor of his father’s estate, is also CEO and president of Liberty Bankers Life Insurance Co. and the American Benefit Life Insurance Co., both of which have been done well, the suit stated.
Bradford Phillips assumed control of his father’s business empire after the elder Phillips’ death. He conducted an independent assessment and determined that aside from being his mistress, De Monserat “had nothing else to offer from a business perspective,” the suit stated.
Bradford Phillips stopped the “money flow” to De Monserat in August 2019 and began looking for ways to extricate her from her dealings with his father’s businesses, the suit stated. He met with De Monserat in early 2020 to discuss her dealings with the estate and his father’s companies, but their discussions were unfruitful and De Monserat hired a lawyer to speak with him, the suit stated.
In February 2020, De Monserat’s lawyer sent the plaintiff a letter threatening action against him individually and as the estate’s executor and demanded money from him and the estate, the suit alleged. The lawyer also accused the plaintiff of misappropriating $2.6 million from a HUD-related project and threatened to involve HUD in the dispute, according to the suit.
The letter left the plaintiff in fear of criminal allegations being brought against him, the estate and his family, all of which caused him significant emotional distress, the suit stated.
However, De Monserat maintained in her court papers that her attorney was seeking information from Phillips concerning matters in which she had a proper interest. De Monserat’s court papers stated she had a “longstanding business and personal relationship” with Gene Phillips and thus the letter was a legitimate inquiry by her attorney because of the onetime joint business interests between his client and the late billionaire.