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Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Politically Connected LV Lawyers Sued For Malpractice

     Michelle McKenna                        Patrick Jones                   Ex-LV Mayor Jan Jones-Blackhurst

      (L to R) Ex-LV Mayor Oscar Goodman with his protégés Gardner Jolly and David Chesnoff
                                           (Inside Vegas photo by Mike Christ)

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 3, 2014

LAS VEGAS - On October 24, 2014, Caesars Palace cocktail server Michelle McKenna filed a malpractice lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court against her former attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld.

McKenna claims that Chesnoff has an undisclosed financial interest in PURE, a night club inside Caesar's Palace, and also did not reveal that he represented a PURE executive in a tax evasion case during the pendency of a personal injury action she hired Chesnoff to prosecute.

McKenna claims that in order to protect Chesnoff'’s conflicting interests, he and his law partner Schonfeld intentionally failed to name PURE or Caesars as defendants prior to the expiration of the five year statute of limitations, and did not adequately investigate or prosecute her case after she was strangled in her workplace by a PURE patron with connections to a top Caesars executive. Consequently, Michelle's case languished until one month before the statute of limitations ran out, and she was forced to accept only a fraction of her damages in a hasty settlement paid by ex-LV Mayor Jan Jones-Blackhurst's homeowner's insurance.

According to the complaint, "Plaintiff Michelle McKenna (“Michelle”), was a cocktail waitress at PURE Nightclub (“Pure”) in Caesars Palace. On January 3, 2009, Michelle was brutally attacked by Patrick Jones (“Jones”), who is the son of Caesars Vice President, Jan Jones Blackhurst."

"Keith Leavitt (“Leavitt”), Pure’s Director of Customer Development, was assigned to host Jones and his friends.located in Michelle’s section. Leavitt explained to Michelle that Jones’ mother worked for Harrah’s and that the table’s bill should be charged to Blackhurst’s comp number. While at Pure, Jones and his friends were served $3,446.02 worth of beverages, which included five bottles of liquor. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of January 4, 2009, Jones asked Michelle to sit on his lap. When Michelle refused his advances and turned to leave, Jones pulled her into his lap. Michelle threw his hands off of her, jumped up, turned around to face him, and began to explain that his conduct was inappropriate. Jones responded by calling her a “f***ing bitch” and making inappropriate gestures. Michelle looked for help, but did not see a single security guard. Seeing Assistant General Manager, Dan Bondy, across the room, Michelle waved for him to come over. However, before Bondy was able to make his way over to Michelle, Jones lunged at her, placed his hands around her throat, and began choking and shaking her. Struggling against Jones and unable to breathe, Michelle blacked out and fell. When Bondy arrived, he wrestled Jones, who was 6’ 1” tall and weighed 220 pounds, off of Michelle and began walking him away from Michelle. Jones remained very aggressive – struggling to break free of Bondy’s grasp, using profanity, and threatening to use his parents’ influence to have Bondy fired. Still gasping for air, Michelle made her way off the main floor while Bondy and a security guard, Alex Walker, escorted Jones safely out of the club through the back door."

After McKenna regained consciousness, she was taken to her car and told to drive herself home.

McKenna's new lawsuit brings claims against Chesnoff & Schonfeld for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and deceptive trade practices, but the underlying story reveals the extent of power and privilege in our city.


The day after she was attacked, McKenna received a call from an old friend. Her complaint explains: "Although Michelle was acquainted with Bruce Becker, owner of Becker Gaming, the two had not spoken for some time. On January 6, 2009, Becker called Michelle and urged her to retain Defendants Chesnoff and Schonfeld to represent her in a personal injury action.  Upon information and belief, Bruce Becker and the Becker family were close, long-term friends of Blackhurst, and both Blackhurst and Becker were friends of Chesnoff.  Unaware of Chesnoff and Becker’s connection to the Jones family, Michelle took Becker’s advice and retained Chesnoff & Schonfeld."

That's when Michelle McKenna's legal nightmare began.

"Defendants failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the underlying case, including, but not limited to, the following acts and omissions: a. Defendants did not bring any claims against Pure or Caesars within the applicable statute of limitations; b. Defendants did not conduct an adequate investigation; they failed to request key documents from the defendant and third-parties; and they did not interview and/or depose material witnesses; c. Defendants did not seek damages for lost wages and future care totaling millions of dollars; d. Defendants did not retain an economic expert to quantify Michelle’s damages; e. Defendants did not provide evidence or produce documents that were necessary to prove the amount of Michelle’s damages."

Two months before the statute of limitation was to expire, McKenna reached out to her friends for advice. She was reportedly told that she had been set up by Becker, and she must fire Chesnoff and Schonfeld immediately. McKenna fired the two lawyers the next day and went searching for new - unconflicted - counsel.

"After four and a half years of unexplained delays, virtually no communication from the Defendants regarding the case, and effectively no progress, Michelle was worried about her case and sought new counsel. Ultimately, Michelle was able to retain the law firm of Cohen & Padda, who resolved the case for her. Even after Cohen and Padda had filed a substitution of counsel, Defendants took more than a month to transfer Michelle’s file to her new counsel, which further prejudiced her case."

"While Cohen & Padda sought to remedy and mitigate the effects of Defendants’ inadequate representation, it was too late to cure many of Defendants’ failures: a. All claims against Pure and Caesars were already barred by the statute of limitations; b. Cohen & Padda did not have adequate time to secure the additional evidence necessary to prove her claims; and c. Cohen & Padda were barred from producing additional documents necessary to prove Michelle’s claims because of Defendants’ delays.

Although Michelle’s expert (retained by Cohen & Padda) valued her damages as more than $10,000,000.00, Defendants’ errors forced Michelle to settle for $225,000.00 from Blackhurst’s homeowners’ insurance – less than 5% of her actual damages."

According to the Oct. 28, 2014 Las Vegas REVIEW-JOURNAL: "The lawsuit claims Pure and Caesars tried to help Jones escape civil and criminal liability for his actions."

McKenna's amended complaint filed by her new attorneys in 2013 following the firing of Chesnoff and Schonfeld, mentioned "conspiracy" for the first time, but because it was filed after the statute of limitations was purposefully allowed to expire, the following information was never allowed to be presented to a jury:

Being that Patrick Jones was the only defendant named by Chesnoff in the initial lawsuit, it was obvious that Chesnoff fully knew that Patrick had no personal assets, and Chesnoff's failure to name other responsible parties including McKenna's employer, was diliberate,  I know David Chesnoff and consider him to be one of the most competent lawyers in Las Vegas, therefore I believe he conspired against Michelle McKenna to ruin her case through multiple delays as a favor possibly to Jones-Blackhurst, Pure, or Caesars.

During a last minute settlement conference, Patrick's mother revealed that her son was living in her home at the time of the incident, and that her homeowner's insurance carrier would offer the limit of her policy, $300,000.00, to facilitate a quick settlement. Then, to sweeten the pot, sources tell INSIDE VEGAS that Jones-Blackhurst personally threw in an additional $50,000.00.

Before McKenna signed off on the settlement, her friends protested saying homeowner's insurance does not cover criminal acts. They were reminded that then-Clark County District Attorney David Roger had refused all requests for criminal prosecution of Patrick Jones for his brutal act, therefore no criminal act had officially occurred, and Patrick's actions were somehow covered by his mother's homeowner's policy.

Jan Jones-Blackhurst is Executive Vice President, Communications & Government Relations for Caesars Entertainment Corporation. She is responsible for approving the company's political campaign contributions including those made to candidates running for Clark County District Attorney.

According to McKenna's claim: "Since the date of the attack, Michelle has seen more than 14 medical providers – many of them specialists – but continues to suffer from the debilitating effects of the attack. In the years since the attack, Michelle has suffered severe headaches, vertigo and dizziness, blackout/fainting spells, balance and coordination problems, blurred vision, nausea, and severe cognitive impairments. Diagnostic tests later revealed that Michelle’s injuries included a crushed larynx, damaged jugular veins, and a traumatic brain injury. Based on her injuries and need for future care, Michelle’s expert estimated her damages in excess of $10 million."

Facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, and foreclosure on her home, McKenna reluctantly accepted Jones-Blackhurst's offer.  Then to add insult to injury, Chesnoff demanded to be paid $65,000.00 for his legal "services," and Patrick and his friends were welcomed back at PURE as VIP comped guests of Jones-Blackhurst.

Chesnoff and Schonfeld are former law partners and protégés of ex-LV Mayor Oscar Goodman, the successor of former LV Mayor Jan Jones- Blackhurst. Goodman is best known for being the former mob lawyer who represented Tony "The ant" Spilotro, and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.

One year after the settlement, Michelle McKenna sought new counsel. She contacted the Bailey Kennedy law firm in Las Vegas, a firm known for their knowledge of Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law.

According to their website, "Members of the legal profession in every state are bound by a code of professional conduct.  While each state’s rules are unique, most are based upon the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, first adopted in 1983 and amended in 2002.  These rules govern the conduct of lawyers as members of the legal profession, representatives of clients, officers of the courts and as public citizens having special responsibilities for the quality of justice."

The legal profession is largely self-governing, and violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct can have serious adverse consequences for individual lawyers and their law firms – in terms of professional licensure and discipline as well as civil and criminal liability.  Bailey Kennedy has extensive knowledge and experience in this area.  We have represented clients in all types of professional responsibility matters, including: Malpractice – plaintiff and defense."

On April 18, 2009, six months after the attack, Patrick Jones and his friends were back in PURE as VIP guests of Jones-Blackhurst.

INSIDE VEGAS broke this story on December 30, 2013. In the ensuing nine months, no media outlet dared expand on my coverage. In that column, I complained: "This is the first time this story has been told,  but in today's Las Vegas, its no wonder. Caesars Entertainment wields tremendous influence over our media and public officials. The name Jan Jones is sacrosanct around here, and I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for local media to pick up this story."

Since December 30, 2013, something happened that could effect news coverage of Michelle McKenna's story. According to the Oct. 17, 2014 Associated Press article "As debt mounts, Caesars in talks with lenders" by Kimberly Pierceall: "Caesars Entertainment said Friday it is prepared to start formal discussions with some of its bank lenders as it works to reduce its debt and stave off what some see as near certain bankruptcy."

According to the instant case: "Patrick Jones is the son of Blackhurst and Fletcher “Ted” Jones, Jr.  Jones had a history of abusing alcohol and illegal drugs. Upon information and belief, Jones had a history of violent and/or aggressive behavior as a teen and young adult."

Based on mounting financial problems, Caesars Palace does not need negative publicity at this time. Therefore, one of their top executives enabling violent actions within their resort should arouse Caesars Entertainment stockholder's attention, and put an end to the obscene power and privilege that allowed this injustice to occur.


Former Pure server files malpractice suit against lawyers in attack case
Oct. 28, 2014

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