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— Padres slugger Tony Gwynn is shooting it out in court with Seltzer, Caplan, Wilkins and McMahon, one of the town's most well-connected law firms. According to a legal malpractice claim Gwynn and wife Alicia filed last week in Superior Court, the firm has badly screwed up the couple's many legal entanglements. In late March of 1997, the lawsuit says, Seltzer, Caplan, and attorney Janice Brown were retained by the Gwynns to defend against a suit from Japanese baseball superstar Hideo Nomo, who had sued the Gwynns and their company, Gwynn Sport, Inc., claiming they had "made unauthorized use of Mr. Nomo's name and likeness." The Gwynns' lawsuit alleges that Selzter, Caplan "negligently advised" the couple to "personally pay $250,000" to Nomo to settle the case, a sum "greatly in excess" of what they should have settled for. In another case brought against the Gwynns by a Japanese sports company -- alleging fraud in the way they handled Major League Baseball toy licenses -- the Gwynns claim that Seltzer, Caplan, and Brown failed to turn the matter over to the Gwynns' insurance company. As a result, the Gwynns claim, they were personally left on the hook for legal fees and settlement costs. The suit describes two other similar cases that were also allegedly bungled by Seltzer, Caplan. Worse yet, Gwynn charges, Seltzer, Caplan pressured him and his wife into attending an October 1997 reception at the law firm's offices. "Upon discovering that [Seltzer, Caplan] was using the reception 'in his honor' for nothing more than an opportunity to trade off his goodwill and to give his appearance to clients," Gwynn wanted to leave the party. But the complaint says he decided to stay and sign baseballs "in order to avoid any possibility of negative publicity for his employer (the San Diego Padres), the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation, and himself." Gwynn also claims that the law firm failed to pay for its sponsorship of a golf tournament sponsored by his charitable foundation. "To add insult to injury, [Seltzer, Caplan] claimed it did not have any obligation to honor its pledge to the TAG foundation or to pay its promised sponsorship because it was throwing a party in honor of Tony Gwynn and the party had gone over budget." The Gwynns claim total damages of more than $3.7 million.

Forever 40

San Diego's own Bill Silva, who rose to fame and fortune beginning in 1979 when he was a UCSD student promoting campus concerts, has just bought a $1.9 million house in the Hollywood Hills from Dr. L. Lee Bosley, a hair-transplant doctor, reports the L.A. Times. The 3500-square-foot house, built in 1972, features three bedrooms, two fireplaces, and a pool. Silva unloaded his company, Bill Silva Presents, in 1998 to Universal Studios. This week's Times story reported Silva's age to be 40. But back in September 1998, the Union-Tribune's Burl Stiff reported that Silva was turning 40, celebrated with a lavish three-day birthday bash that included food trucked in from Wolfgang Puck and a telephoned performance by Jewel ... The Shiley Family Trust has just foreclosed on the Artesian Valley Ranch near Durango, Colorado. The trust paid $3.34 million at a foreclosure auction last Thursday and is expected to try to quickly unload the land, the proposed site of a controversial 975-acre, 244-home subdivision opposed by neighbors. Colorado records list Donald Pearce Shiley as trustee of the Shiley Family Trust. Shiley, the inventor of an artificial heart valve, and wife Darlene are big donors to local charities like KPBS.

Talent Drain

Ace Union-Tribune reporter Valerie Alvord, known for her hard-hitting coverage of U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin and border controversies spawned by whistle-blowing Customs inspectors, has quietly departed the newspaper. Her byline has recently shown up in USA Today ... Padres owner John Moores continues his Internet spending spree. His JMI Equity Fund has announced it shared in a $6.75 million investment in a Massachusetts outfit called Unica. The company says it specializes in "providing analytic and campaign-management software solutions for Internet-based and traditional marketing channels such as call centers, mail, fax, and point-of-sale."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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