Daena Smoller enlisted attorney Thomas Girardi to help her and her late partner, Larry Montz, with a lawsuit against NBCUniversal Media and Universal Television Network years ago before ultimately having her case dropped as his wife, Erika Jayne, was cast on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
During a recent podcast appearance, Daena explained how Tom and his law firm, Girardi Keese, conned her into dropping a copyright claim over a show she unsuccessfully pitched after she hired them to take over for a female attorney who could no longer handle the case.
“We were guided to Tom Girardi. I didn’t really know who any of the attorneys in L.A. were,” Daena revealed on the March 3 episode of the #NoFilter With Zack Peter podcast. “Larry speaks to him first and Tom Girardi let him know that he was on his own private plane. He was boarding his plane. So, of course, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s cool. That must be a good sign.’”
As the conversation continued, Thomas assured Larry that he was not afraid of taking on NBC.
“[He said], ‘I’m not afraid of anybody and I’ve sued everybody in Hollywood and I’ve never lost a case,’” Daena recalled.
After meeting with the firm, Daena and Larry hoped to prove they had a copyright on their potential show, Ghost Expeditions: Haunted, which they believed NBC stole from them for SyFy’s Ghost Hunters.
According to Daena, she and Larry were told that if they could prove that, they’d win the case “hands down,” and they’d be given millions for their troubles. However, when she then sent her proof to the firm’s copyright expert, he told her, “Your case is real weak,” and he informed her that if there were any changes made to the document, even minor ones, they’d lose.
“So you need to voluntarily kill your own copyright claim and let us go to the appellate level and try and get the fight to refile two state claims of the original list,” the expert advised.
While Daena and Larry didn’t like the idea at all, they begrudgingly agreed because “they are Girardi Keese,” and soon after, their copyright case was killed on the federal level.
From there, Daena and Larry continued to work with Girardi Keese’s Howard Miller and Graham LippSmith. Unfortunately, after following their advice and killing their copyright case, they learned their case had been tossed as their attorneys blamed their former lawyer for faulty paperwork.
“She made a mistake and it got tossed,” Daena was told. “It was the way she worded the complaint.”
Although Daena and Larry feared they were dead in the water at that point, their lawsuit came back into play as it was sent to trial. Right away, Daena was excited. But, when it came to Girardi Keese’s preparation for the case, she worried they weren’t doing enough as they cut off communication before court.
“They refused to talk to us about it. We called them about it so many times, we sent them so many emails. We sent them faxes, everything,” Daena said. “They [did] stuff without telling us ahead of time and they never kept us in the loop… [with] different hearings.”
In the moment, Daena said she felt as if she and Larry were being beat because NBC had more money and better access to top lawyers.
Years later, Daena believes it was actually Girardi Keese who sabotaged her and Larry’s case.
“We truly believe that our law firm was assisting because back when they told us we needed to give up the copyright and let them go to the appellate level to see if we could refile the case with the state claims… it’s just interesting now considering everything that’s happened,” Daena explained, adding that Girardi Keese went behind their backs and canceled their trial in September 2013.
In April 2014, Daena and Larry’s lawsuit against NBC was officially dismissed on a technicality, and about one year later, Thomas’ wife, Erika, began filming the sixth season of RHOBH.
“It’s very interesting that our case is tossed on something so stupid and so not legitimate,” Daena noted.
While the lawsuit was thrown out because it was allegedly turned in two days late, Daena said it actually arrived at the court on time, but she claimed the court failed to stamp the document until two days later.
“It’s like, was that supposed to work to Tom Girardi’s benefit to help his wife? When our case totally goes away, what we’re told by Girardi Keese is, ‘You have no options. You’re done.’ And Tom was kind enough to leave us a voicemail months earlier… ‘You’re toast. You’re toast’… which I saved. So it goes away totally on April 1 of 2014 and she’s on the next season,” Daena shared.
Daena also accused Thomas and his firm of “being very, very derogatory to us” and said it was interesting that while she and Larry were blacklisted immediately throughout Hollywood, Thomas and his wife were welcomed to NBC in 2015.
“His wife benefited and so did he. He’s being embraced by a network. All of the sudden, his wife is on the cover of PEOPLE magazine… and then she’s on Dancing With the Stars. It’s like, why wasn’t Girardi blacklisted?” she wondered.
As Erika and Thomas thrived, Daena and Larry found themselves out of work and unable to support Larry’s mounting medical needs, which ultimately took his life.
“We were seriously devastated. We’d be battling this for nearly a decade and we were in total survival mode. We didn’t have the money that we used to have and his health deteriorated… I always blamed them for Larry’s poor health,” Daena confessed.