‘Jeff never showed up’: Lawyer disbarred for ditching $1M plane case

Martin Gallan thought he had a million-dollar case. Listening to him, you can see why.

The North Carolinian had bought an $800,000 plane, discovered it was a lemon, won a $900,000 court judgment, and just needed to collect. In his corner was a lawyer — “a really nice guy, kind of soft-spoken and humble” — with strong experience in aviation law.

“I had a good impression of him,” Gallan said of the attorney. “I bought the story, OK?”

Gallan’s former lawyer, Jeff Vail, will almost certainly not practice law again. He was disbarred by a state judge May 10 for what he did — and didn’t do — in Gallan’s case.

Gallan’s bad luck began in 2015, when he fulfilled a lifelong dream by buying a jet. He planned to use his 1994 Beechjet 400A, bought sight-unseen for $800,000 from a seller in Texas, to fly between North Carolina and Florida for business. But that didn’t happen.

Jeff Vail Spartan Medical

Former Denver-area attorney Jeff Vail. (Spartan Medical)

“It was a joke,” Gallan said. “It had so many things wrong with it that I took it to a well-known aircraft location in North Carolina and they told me that I had a choice: Either truck it off to the graveyard and just swallow my losses, or put an $800,000 system in the cockpit.”

Many of the plane’s instruments, including an anti-collision warning system and weather display, didn’t work right. Neither did the fuel gauge, thrust reversers, radar display or toilet. Also, the plane’s paint was peeling and one wing was corroded, according to a 2017 lawsuit.

Gallan sued a Castle Pines aircraft broker who had sold him on the Beechjet and an Englewood company that inspected it pre-purchase. The broker, Steve Bloom, filed for bankruptcy a short time later, so he was dropped from the case, but Gallan won a $908,000 judgment against his company, Bloom Business Jets LLC. That’s when Vail joined Gallan’s case.

The lawyer, then with the Godfrey Johnson firm in Englewood, wrote a lawsuit that accused Bloom Business Jets LLC of fraudulently transferring all of its assets to Bloom Business Jets Inc. just before the $908,000 judgment was entered, to avoid paying Gallan.

“It looked like I could collect $800,000 to $1.2 million — somewhere in that range — in court,” Gallan said by phone from North Carolina last week. “But Jeff never showed up.”

Vail, who had started his own firm and took Gallan with him, was ignoring his client’s emails by fall 2020 and then started missing court deadlines in the case. In early 2021, he told Gallan that he was closing Vail Law, so Gallan would need a new lawyer.

“That is a very specialized field, being an attorney involved in airplanes,” Gallan said. “Which made it harder when he didn’t show up and I scrambled to try to find an attorney. There aren’t a lot of people in that field and none of them wanted to take a case on the run.”

Bloom Business Jets, which denied doing anything wrong and claimed the inspection company “was the real party at fault,” as it told a federal judge, moved to dismiss the lawsuit in April 2021. Vail, who had never formally withdrawn from the case, ignored that motion.

“I was given the choice of defending myself, and I knew I would be in over my head trying to do that,” Gallan said of that hectic time. “So, to keep them from countersuing me, I went ahead and signed a release and just walked away from the whole effing thing.”

For abandoning his client, Vail was disbarred May 10 by Disciplinary Judge Bryon Large. “Gallan believed he stood to recoup over one million dollars in what he saw was a ‘good case,’” Large noted in his nine-page order, and Vail’s “misconduct degraded his opinion not only of lawyers but also of Coloradans,” the judge said, referring to Gallan.

Vail is now a business executive at Spartan Medical, a medical device company in Maryland, according to Spartan and his LinkedIn. He did not answer requests for comment.

“I had a dream all my life and I got really screwed on it,” said Gallan, who still doesn’t own a working jet. “It wasn’t the greatest thing that ever happened in my life, you know, being screwed over and feeling stupid for buying peoples’ stories — feeling very gullible.”


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