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Lawsuit of the Day: Jilted Lawyer Bride Sues Sidley Associate for Wedding Expenses

Robert Leighton

Associates in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin seem to be doing a lot of walking these days. Last week, for example, bankruptcy associate Tyler Coulson announced that he was leaving the firm in order to walk across the country with his dog.

Today we bring you the tale of Sidley IP associate Robert Leighton, who apparently walked out on his fiancée, Lauren Serafin. But Serafin didn’t take the diss lying down.

Lauren Serafin is also a lawyer, so what did she do? She sued him, of course. Her suit for “breach of promise” seeks $62,814.71 in wedding and honeymoon expenses.

And it makes some lurid allegations about Leighton. Let’s take a closer look at the lawsuit — and the ex-bride behind it, who’s rather attractive….

Here’s the story, from the Chicago Tribune:

Lauren Serafin’s wedding was set — dress purchased, Ritz-Carlton reserved, honeymoon to Bora Bora booked — when her fiancé called it off, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Serafin, a Chicago attorney, alleges that her ex-fiancé, Robert Leighton, now owes her $62,814.71 in expenses for a wedding that never happened because of his “breach of promise,” according to the lawsuit.

You might not be familiar with the “breach of promise” cause of action, but it’s apparently valid in Illinois. The bride should be able to show documented expenses. In this case, Lauren Serafin claims almost $63,000 worth of enumerated costs, including a $5,000 wedding dress and a $7,000 honeymoon to Bora Bora.

On paper, Serafin and Leighton look like a great couple. They’re both lawyers, who graduated in 2008 from Loyola Law – Chicago (presumably where they met), and they both work for firms in the Windy City. He’s an associate at Sidley, where he handles IP litigation, and she’s an associate at Hennessy & Roach, where she works on defense of workers’ compensation claims.

Lauren Serafin

(If you visit the Hennessy & Roach website, be sure to turn off your speakers — unless you want to listen to an irritating and completely unnecessary “guided tour” of the site.)

Perhaps most importantly, Robert Leighton and Lauren Serafin look good together. Leighton is handsome in that clean-cut, Midwestern sort of way, and the lovely Lauren looks like a non-trashy version of Tara Reid.

Leighton proposed to Serafin on July 2, 2009, and they picked August 21, 2010, as their wedding date. But they never made it to the altar. What happened?

[I]n July 2010 the couple’s relationship began to deteriorate after Leighton went to Las Vegas for his bachelor party, the lawsuit states.

Serafin’s lawsuit alleges that while in Vegas Leighton had sex with another woman. She became suspicious after reading text messages on her phone and when she questioned him about his activities on the Vegas trip, he tried to move out of the home they shared, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Leighton at first denied anything happened in Vegas, but later admitted that he “hooked up” with the woman and that he no longer wanted to marry Serafin.

Apparently what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. Serafin’s complaint characterizes Leighton’s conduct as “extreme, intentional and outrageous.”

Who’s in the right? Feel free to argue it out in the comments. We’ve heard opinions from members of both Team Robert and Team Lauren, and they’re not pretty. One of Robert’s partisans described Lauren to us as “a bitch,” while one of Lauren’s supporters told us that Robert is “a jerk.”

Dominique Buttitta

Interestingly enough, there seems to be a mini-trend of female lawyers in the Chicago area suing their ex-fiancés for breach of promise. This past December, Dominique Buttitta, a lawyer in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, sued her former fiancé, Vito Salerno, for breach of the promise to marry and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Buttitta sought a whopping $95,000 in expenses, including $12,000 for flowers, $10,000 for an orchestra, and over $5,000 for a “non-returnable Wedding dress, veil and hair accessory.” Vito Salerno — great name, right? — fired back with a lawsuit of his own, seeking the return of a $45,500 engagement ring (three carats — wow).

In another coincidence, the disintegration of Buttitta and Salerno’s relationship, just like that of Serafin and Leighton, also had its roots in an allegedly unhinged bachelor party. Buttitta alleged that Salerno engaged in “flirtatious and amorous acts in public,” including but not limited to lap dances, during his bachelor party at an adult entertainment establishment named the Pink Monkey (you can’t make this stuff up).

The not-so-happy ex-couple.

Women of Chicago, here’s some friendly advice: don’t let your men have raunchy bachelor parties.

And men of Chicago, take heed: hell hath no fury like a woman lawyer scorned.

P.S. We wish we had a copy of the full complaint in Serafin v. Leighton. Alas, it wasn’t included in the Tribune article, and it’s not yet available on the Cook County Circuit Court electronic docket. (The case was filed on Friday, so presumably the complaint hasn’t been uploaded yet; if and when it does, please feel free to post the link in the comments.)

UPDATE (11 AM): You can access a copy of Lauren Serafin’s complaint via On Point, which (1) notes the additional allegation that Robert Leighton breached the “duty of implied fidelity” with a woman in Vegas named “Danielle” and (2) analyzes the merits of Serafin’s various causes of action (including IIED).

UPDATE (9/2/11): Want to know how this lawsuit was resolved? See here.

Jilted bride sues over wedding expenses [Chicago Tribune]
What Happened in Vegas Lands Man in Jilted Bride Suit [On Point]
Jilted bride sues ex-fiance for $95K for cancelling wedding [Chicago Tribune]
Groom’s lawsuit: Jilted bride kept $45K ring [Chicago Sun-Times]

Earlier: Want Out of Biglaw? Take a Hike!

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