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BARRISTERS AND SOLICITORS - Compensation - Actions against clients

Monday, March 22, 2021 @ 9:15 AM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Application by the defendant for a stay of the plaintiff’s action. The plaintiff was an American law firm that provided legal services to the defendant. It commenced an action for US$3.2 million in unpaid legal fees. The defendant was formed in 2018 by way of a merger of four companies, including three American companies and one Canadian company. It was incorporated in Nevada and continued into British Columbia. Its headquarters were in Arizona. It did not have any operations or assets in British Columbia. The plaintiff represented the defendant in 35 separate matters. Most of the legal work was done by the plaintiff in California. The defendant commenced proceedings in California against the plaintiff that alleged professional negligence in relation to the same legal matters. The defendant alleged a former employee colluded with a lawyer at the plaintiff to prevent the nature and scale of the plaintiff’s work from coming to the defendant’s attention. No intended witnesses resided in British Columbia.

HELD: Application allowed. The process for compelling witnesses to give evidence was less cumbersome and less expensive in California than in British Columbia. The individuals with the closet connection to the subject matter in dispute all resided in California. The governing law of the dispute was the law of California. Many factors were neutral or weighed modestly in favour of California as the more appropriate forum. However, the California non-party witnesses who were central to the defendant’s defence established California as clearly more appropriate. Without their testimony, the defendant would be at a significant disadvantage in making its case. The ability of the California court to compel the attendance of central witnesses would result in a trial that was fairer to both parties and more efficient than what the British Columbia court could provide. California was clearly the more appropriate forum for the resolution of the dispute.

OMelveny & Myers LLP v. Tilt Holdings Inc., [2021] B.C.J. No. 155, British Columbia Supreme Court, A.D. Francis J., February 1, 2021. Digest No. TLD-March222021001