Harold Ramis | Youtube screenshot
A Northfield-based lawyer who worked for decades with Hollywood luminary Harold Ramis, and who has claimed Ramis' widow has cut him off from revenue that should be his, is in turn facing a legal action from Ramis' widow accusing him and his firm of charging Ramis and his film ventures excessive legal fees. An insurance company is asking a court to declare it has no obligation to defend the lawyer in the ongoing multi-faceted three-year-old courtroom drama that has followed Ramis’ death.
In 2016, David B. Kahn, principal of Northfield-based David B. Kahn & Associates, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Ramis’ companies and Ramis’ widow, Erica Mann Ramis, accusing Ramis’ widow of wrongly cutting him off from a continuing stream of income he says he is owed for work he completed to help build Ramis’ film businesses.
Ramis left his mark on Hollywood and the international cinematic industry through his work on a number of famous onscreen and off-screen roles in producing, directing, writing and acting such classic films as Ghostbusters, Animal House, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and more.
Ramis died in 2014 at the age of 69.
The companies named in the complaint include Harold Ramis Enterprises, Harold Ramis Films and Ocean Pictures.
According to the complaint filed about two years after Ramis’ death, Kahn asserted his firm had contracts with Ramis from 1978 to 2010, when Ramis fell ill and his second wife, who became his widow, took control of his business affairs.
The complaint accused the companies, under the control of Erica Mann Ramis, of stopping payments to Kahn and his firm for “their earned project interests,” starting in 2011. Kahn said his contracts with Ramis called for Kahn’s firm to earn 10 percent of Ramis’ gross take from the projects for which Kahn provided legal assistance. These, he claimed, included nearly every Ramis film, excluding “Animal House,” and would include such hits as “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This.”
That lawsuit has remained pending in the years since in Cook County court.
In August 2018, the defendants in the case responded by suing Kahn for legal malpractice, accusing Kahn and his firm of mismanaging money paid by Ramis for more than 30 years, and paying themselves “excessive fees, totaling at least $1 million.
The counterclaim asserts records and documents provided to Erica Mann Ramis and the Ramis companies following the severing of their relationship in 2011 were “grossly incomplete and poorly organized, missing numerous years of financial results, including during Ramis’ most lucrative earnings period.”
The counterclaim asks the court to order Kahn and his firm to “account for the years of transactions in which they exerted control over receipt and payment of funds” into and from the Ramis companies, and for the court to order Kahn to refund “excessive fees paid.”
According to a petition recently filed in Cook County court, Kahn and his firm then asked his insurer, Wesco Insurance Company, to pay to defend the firm against the Ramis companies’ countersuit.
On Aug. 23, Wesco formally asked a Cook County judge to find the policy held by Kahn does not obligate them to defend Kahn against the legal malpractice claim.
According to Cook County court records, Kahn is represented in the action by attorney Mark E. King, of the Kahn firm. Kahn’s lawsuit was filed by attorneys Alan J. Mandel and Joseph E. Tighe, of Alan J. Mandel Ltd., of Skokie.
The Ramis companies and Erica Mann Ramis are represented by attorneys from the firm of Rathje Woodward Dyer LLC, of Chicago.
Wesco Insurance is represented by attorneys Samuel R. Stalker and Philip R. King, of the firm of Cozen O’Connor, of Chicago.