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BARRISTERS AND SOLICITORS - Contingency agreements - Statutory provisions

Thursday, January 16, 2020 @ 8:29 AM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Motion by the respondent client for an order declaring her contingency fee agreement with the applicant law firm was improperly terminated and she was not liable to pay any fees or disbursements. The client was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2008. In 2014, the client retained the applicant and signed the contingency fee agreement. The client maintained that she was told if she did not recover anything, she would not have to pay any fees or disbursements. On several occasions the client expressed her dissatisfaction with the applicant’s representation. In 2018, the applicant wrote to the client that given the breakdown in their relationship, it was best for the client to obtain new counsel. The applicant obtained an order removing it as solicitor of record. It sent the client an interim account of $121,411 for fees and disbursements and applied for an order for assessment of the account.

HELD: Motion dismissed. There was ample evidence the client was critical of the applicant and did not believe they were adequately representing her. It was clear she had lost confidence in their ability to represent her. The applicant had good cause to terminate the agreement. The agreement clearly made the client responsible for any disbursements incurred whether or not there was a settlement. The applicant was entitled to seek its disbursements in the forthcoming assessment. It was premature for the applicant to advance a claim for its fees, in violation of s. 7 of the Contingency Fee Agreements regulation, as the client had not yet been awarded any damages or entered into a settlement agreement.

Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers v. Verlaan-Cole, [2019] O.J. No. 5827, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, J.A. Fowler Byrne J., November 18, 2019. Digest No. TLD-January132020007