The Most Respected Adversary
HOW PAULA LITT’S SLEUTHING SKILLS IGNITED
THE BUSINESS LITIGATOR’S CAREER
BY KEVIN DAVIS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY COREY HENGEN
THE CASE SOUNDED BORING.
Paula Litt was a second-year associate when her legal career
took off—after she reluctantly agreed to work on a case that at first
seemed rather dull.
At the now-defunct Chicago firm Reuben & Proctor, Litt was
put on a complex case involving gas cylinders missing from
a downstate distributor. She would have to pore over stacks
of invoices, receipts and mounds of paperwork. “It was not so
interesting,” she says. “We had to take a mass of documents and
make a story out of it.”
They did. The tale that unfolded turned out to be one of
deception and fraud, and the lawsuit evolved into one of the first
civil cases in Illinois to go before a jury using the then-new federal
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
“At the time, RICO was being used primarily for criminal cases,
but was now being applied to civil cases, though no one had ever
taken a civil RICO case to a jury trial here,” Litt says. “We were
trying to prove the distributor defrauded the company [her client]
by failing to do what they were supposed to do.”
The advantage of using the RICO act was twofold: If their client
won, the court automatically would triple actual damages as a
penalty; and the judge would be allowed to award attorneys' fees.