Lawyers want deceased attorney's family stopped from spending life insurance money

Ashley Twombley, an attorney representing 22 people in a class action lawsuit against late Florence attorney John Schurlknight appeared in a Florence courtroom Tuesday, asking Judge George C. James to impose an injunction against Schurlknight's widow and two college-aged children from spending what's left of his $1.3 million insurance policy.

The lawsuit accuses Schurlknight of stealing between $6 million and $10 million from clients.

Schurlknight, who worked at Schurlknight and Rivers Law Firm in Florence for many years, died in November 2012. The firm is no longer in operation, and Schurlknight's partner is under suspension by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Schurlknight's widow and his two college-aged children are named in the lawsuit, which says each family member received, directly or indirectly, huge sums of money stolen from clients of the firm and used the money to purchase expensive cars, attend private schools, live in expensive homes and live a lifestyle the Schurlknight family could not afford.

Twombley is asking for the injunction against the spending of the life insurance money because he says it's possible Schurlknight used stolen funds to pay his life insurance premiums.

"The Schurlknight defendants are actively spending this money. $355,000 in the first four months of 2013. The first four months. All we're asking you to do is to protect this money. We don't want you to let us have it. We don't want you to let them have it. We just want you to protect it," said Twombley.

Several of the plantiffs were in court for the hearing.

Twombley referred to two of the plantiffs, saying they have permanent injuries and never got one dime of their settlement money from Schurlknight.

Art Justice and Rene Josey with Turner Padget Law Firm represent the Schurlknight family.

Justice says the Schurlknight family was not involved in the operation of John Schurlknight's law practice and was unaware of his specific sources of income.

He told the court the family spent the $355,000 of the $1.3 million life insurance policy to take care of massive debt.

"The largest sum of money that Lee Schurlknight spent after he recieved funds from the life insurance policy was to purchase the first and second mortgage on their their family home. So it wouldn't be foreclosed, but then he bought three nice, not expensive, automobiles so he and his sister and his mother would have to something to drive because the other automobiles had been repossessed," said Justice.

Justice argued life insurance policies aren't considered an estate assett in South Carolina.

Judge James issued a temporary ruling that no money is to be withdrawn from the Schurlknight's bank account holding the life insurance funds until ordered by the court.

He will issue a final ruling at a later time.

The lawsuit could go to trial within the next 18 months.