How Erika Girardi Dominated ‘Real Housewives’ This Season

Filing a lawsuit is one thing. Collecting on it is an entirely different matter. Mr. Richards, in an interview, acknowledged it’s unlikely that Ms. Girardi’s assets — clothes, jewelry and other items — are worth anything close to $25 million. Mr. Richards said he does not want to hurt Ms. Girardi and is open to a settlement.

But her lawyer said it’s premature to discuss a deal. “Everyone keeps piling on and trashing Erika for things she didn’t do,” Mr. Borges said, adding, “there is no hidden treasure.”

Meanwhile, the legal spectacle has left some victims exasperated.

Mr. Ruigomez was 19 when, in 2010, a gas explosion destroyed his family’s home in San Bruno, Calif., killing his girlfriend, burning him and severely damaging his lungs. He has since had nearly three dozen surgeries.

In 2013, Mr. Girardi secured an $11 million settlement on behalf of Mr. Ruigomez. Pacific Gas & Electric, the giant power company, paid the money to Mr. Girardi’s firm years ago. According to court documents, he and his family are still waiting for most of their money.

Kathleen Ruigomez, Mr. Ruigomez’s mother, needs the settlement money for her son’s continuing medical care, she said. “I do worry about getting paid.”

Ms. Ruigomez used to watch and enjoy “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” But as time passed and Mr. Girardi kept giving her excuses for why they hadn’t been paid the full settlement, she began to regard Ms. Girardi with skepticism.

“The first few seasons we kind of liked her, but then we began becoming more and more concerned about our money. Is she spending our money? Now she is very unlikable on the show,” Ms. Ruigomez said. “She seems like she almost has an attitude that we victims ruined her gig.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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