Joe Ruigomez: Burn Survivor Remains Involved in Tom Girardi’s Case Today

As a documentary living up to its title in every way conceivable, ABC’s/Hulu’s ‘The Housewife and the Hustler 2: The Reckoning’ can only be described as equal parts bewildering and haunting. That’s because it comprises not just archival footage but also exclusive interviews to really shine a light upon the tale of former legal magnate Thom as “Tom” Girardi and his ex-wife Erika Jayne. Amongst them was actually burn survivor Joseph “Joe” Ruigomez, whose narrative of the aftermath of this attorney having “robbed” him years prior was arguably the most intriguing of it all.

Who is Joe Ruigomez?

It was on the opening day of NFL season in 2010 when Joe’s entire world turned upside down while he and his girlfriend Jessica Morales were getting ready to enjoy the game on their couch. The truth is they suddenly felt the ground shake, which was almost immediately followed by the sound of a massive explosion as well as a fireball totally encompassing his San Bruno residence. A faulty gas pipeline had burst in his neighborhood, yet the worst aspect was the fact it’d happened in such a blink of an eye that nobody could hide from it, let alone already be prepared for it.

Joe was thus certain he was going to die, but thankfully, first responders managed to reach him just in time and he was rushed to a nearby hospital to be treated for his 80-90% body burns. However, Jessica sadly lost her life — he still vividly remembers their last words to one another were “I love you,” only for her remains to be recovered from a neighbor’s shed a few days later. He was in a coma by this point, so he didn’t even know of all these details until he awoke sometime later, which is also when he came across personal injury lawyer Tom Girardi for the first time.

According to reports, Joe was still in quite a delirious state during his encounter with Tom and hence doesn’t recall much of their conversation, yet he does assert the latter was very charming. In fact, the attorney consistently made efforts to meet his client before going as far as to get to know him on a personal level, making the former feel comfortable with leaving the pro in charge. Then in 2013, he suddenly won this survivor a settlement amounting to nearly $11 million on the grounds of continuing physical as well as mental medical costs/needs, trauma, loss, plus more.

Though before the Ruigomez family could even comprehend this verdict, Tom offered them an “investment opportunity” with a 6% interest to ensure they could make this money last decades. They obviously unwittingly agreed owing to the trust they had in him, unaware he’d allegedly go on to use it for a mix of his own personal and professional benefit — there was no investment. Regardless, it still took them a few months of failed payments, lies on the shoulders of their mediatory judge, plus utter avoidance to grasp this possible reality, ultimately driving them to sue him.

Where is Joe Ruigomez Now?

Since Joe’s family was among the first to file a civil lawsuit against Tom Girard, they also became among the first to be allowed to collect what they’re owed from the sale of his assets in 2023. They’d actually already received a million dollars in 2017, so this recent court-approved significant collection resulted in them now finally having a majority of what they were owed in their hands. Nevertheless, the Ruigomez’s, especially Joe, continue to be vocal in the case against now-disbarred Tom because they know first-hand justice for hundreds of other victims still has to be served.

Coming to Joe’s personal current standing, he has undergone over 30 surgeries as of writing, there are a few more already scheduled for the coming years, and many that could be needed down the line, so these millions will definitely help out a lot. Yet the fact of the matter remains this San Bruno poker player’s physical pain will likely never be a zero, which is why he has since even taken up the practice of an ice bath every day — it helps him manage his bodily sensations.

Though that’s not to say Joe hasn’t learned to kind of embrace his new normal in the years to have gone by — in fact, in 2021, he’d said in the first installment of ‘The Housewife and the Hustler’ that “When I look in the mirror, I see someone who has been through a lot. Surgeries will have to go on for the rest of my life; I have already accepted it. I treat it like a challenge at this point. I trust that my will could handle anything that gets thrown my way. So, when I look in the mirror, I’m actually not bothered at all… I wear [my scars] with pride.”

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