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Friday, February 15, 2019 @ 8:43 AM  


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Application by the administrator of Johnson’s estate for directions on the payment of legal fees following the settlement of the estate’s fatal accidents claim. Johnson died in a motor vehicle accident in 2015 and was survived by his minor child. A fatal accidents claim commenced by the minor’s mother, Curtis, was discontinued after it was determined that Johnson’s father was the proper administrator of his estate. The administrator of Johnson’s estate had pursued a fatal accidents claim, entering a contingency agreement with counsel for legal fees. The consequent settlement had been recommended by the Public Trustee and approved by the court. The amount of $182,392 had been placed in trust for the minor. Legal fees of $69,979 were being held in trust. The settlement was 25 per cent higher than a settlement offer obtained by Curtis’s counsel.

HELD: Application allowed. As the only person authorized to bring the action for the benefit of the minor, the administrator had the authority to enter into an agreement for legal fees, including a contingency fee agreement. It was reasonable for the minor to pay legal fees related to the benefits he received. The legal fees resulting from the contingency agreement were not unreasonable. It was not reasonable for the minor to pay for legal fees related to the determination of whether Curtis had any claim or for duplicate legal fees for work completed before Curtis’s status was confirmed. Curtis’s counsel, by taking on the work on a contingency fee basis, took the risk that if Curtis was not confirmed as administrator of Johnson’s estate, there would be no recovery of damages and nothing against which to apply the contingency. The contingency agreement between Curtis and her counsel did not apply to the benefits received by the minor in the fatal accidents claim settlement. The entire amount of $69,978 was to be paid to the administrator’s counsel.

Johnson v. Thingvold (Personal and property guardian of), [2019] A.J. No. 3, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, D.A. Yungwirth J., January 2, 2019. Digest No. TLD-February112019010