It’s been more than eight years since Las Vegas chiropractor Stephen Shaw shoved an older man to his death, and the victim’s widow is still trying to make Shaw pay.
This week, she will seek help from a civil jury in District Court.
Shaw originally faced a charge of second-degree murder but later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for causing 60-year-old Lawrence Weiss to fall and suffer fatal head injuries on March 11, 2005.
In May 2007, then-District Judge Donald Mosley sentenced Shaw to five years of probation.
“The sentence contained absolutely no penalty whatsoever,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owens complained after the hearing. “There was no fine, there was no restitution, there was no jail time.”
But a civil jury changed that in 2009, when it found Shaw liable for the death and awarded nearly $2.5 million to Weiss’ widow, Sheryl.
Before the jury could determine punitive damages, however, Shaw and his wife filed for bankruptcy, temporarily halting the proceedings.
Later that year, a bankruptcy judge ruled that Shaw could not avoid paying the civil damages by declaring bankruptcy.
In 2011, the parties stipulated to a judgment that set punitive damages at $1,000. Sheryl Weiss also filed a new lawsuit that accused Shaw and his wife of trying to hide their assets.
The couple’s attorney, Charles Rainey, said Shaw “basically offered to take an additional $200,000 judgment against him to bow out of the case,” and Sheryl Weiss accepted.
That leaves Shaw’s wife, Raquel, and Dr. Raymond Nicholl as defendants in the case when it goes to trial Tuesday before District Judge Mark Denton. The trial is expected to last two to three days.
Rainey said the judge has indicated he will limit any discussion in front of the jury of the incident that led to the underlying judgment.
“This is really strictly about collecting on a debt,” the lawyer said.
The 2005 incident was triggered by an argument between Raquel Shaw and Lawrence Weiss, who believed the woman had cut him off as they drove into the Fabulous Freddy’s carwash at Fort Apache Road and Charleston Boulevard. Raquel Shaw called her husband, who rushed to the scene.
Stephen Shaw was 36 at the time. Lawrence Weiss was a retired record company executive.
According to the most recent complaint filed by Sheryl Weiss, Stephen Shaw owned and operated a chiropractic clinic on Rainbow Boulevard for more than 10 years. She claimed he received income of more than $100,000 annually until August 2011.
But in June 2011, Stephen Shaw testified that he had transferred all his clinic’s equipment to Rainbow Injury Rehabilitation clinic, which Nicholl had opened at the same location.
Stephen Shaw also testified that the Rainbow clinic had hired him as an employee and was paying him $102,000 a year.
“He couldn’t keep his practice open,” Rainey explained. “His reputation had been destroyed.”
When Sheryl Weiss took steps to garnish Stephen Shaw’s wages, Rainbow responded by stating that Stephen Shaw’s salary had been reduced to $30,000 a year.
Sheryl Weiss claims it was reduced to thwart her collection efforts, but Rainey claims the chiropractor simply lost his motivation to work, because he knows he never will have the ability to pay off such a large debt, which continues to accrue interest.
According to the complaint, Rainbow hired Raquel Shaw in late 2011 or early 2012 to perform all the administrative functions that her husband once performed, and began paying her $6,000 to $7,000 a month, despite her “utter lack of qualification.”
“We basically just believe that was a sham transaction designed to avoid the wage garnishment,” said attorney David Mincin, who represents Sheryl Weiss.
He said Sheryl Weiss can garnish only about 18 percent of Stephen Shaw’s gross wages. Mincin described the total amount of money paid by the chiropractor to his client as “negligible.”
Rainey said Stephen Shaw had been working for Rainbow as both a chiropractor and office manager but now works only 10 to 12 hours a week as a chiropractor.
“There’s really not much of a legal basis to tell an employer that they must pay more than what an employee’s worth just because that employee owes someone else money,” the lawyer contends.
He said Raquel Shaw works part time at Rainbow as an office assistant and receives only $10 an hour. He also said the Shaws have lost their house and have no savings.
“It’s not as if there’s some big pile of money to go after,” the lawyer said.
The lawsuit claims the defendants conspired to harm Sheryl Weiss “by fraudulently transferring and concealing assets” to prevent her collection efforts.
Rainey said Sheryl Weiss targeted Nicholl because he is a successful physician with a “deep pocket.”
The widow, who now lives in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is expected to testify at the trial.
When asked whether Stephen Shaw feels any obligation to try to pay Sheryl Weiss the money he owes her, Rainey replied, “He definitely feels deep remorse for the events that occurred — the prior events.”
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.