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BARRISTERS AND SOLICITORS - Compensation - Agreement for fees - Payment of costs by third party - Taxation or assessment of accounts

Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 12:32 PM  

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Appeal by a client from a Supreme Court order dismissing her appeal from a Registrar's assessment of a solicitor's bill. The client's friend faced a substantial default judgment in a class action related to his alleged involvement in a pyramid scheme. The client arranged for her friend's legal representation. No signed retainer was entered, with the solicitor and client conducting their communications regarding the matter by email. Over the ensuing seven months, the client paid approximately $63,000 toward her friend's representation. The solicitor's actions were unsuccessful and the default judgment was granted. The client disputed that she was ever the solicitor's client and denied any contract with the solicitor. She claimed any payments to the solicitor were effectively loans to her friend. The Registrar concluded that the solicitor was retained by the client on the terms reflected in their email correspondence. The Registrar concluded the client owed a further $26,159 in fees. On appeal, the Supreme Court found no error in principle and concluded the Registrar's ruling was not clearly wrong. The client appealed to the Court of Appeal.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The client's subjective view that she was not liable to pay the solicitor's bill on the basis she was lending money to her friend was of no assistance. Her allegations were unsupported by the evidence. In addition, there was nothing inconsistent between the client's belief that she was lending money to her friend on the one hand, but being liable to the solicitor for the legal fees on the other. There was no basis for finding the Supreme Court erred in principle in declining to find the solicitor failed to explain the full nature of the alleged contractual relationship, including the client's assumption of personal liability for legal fees. The evidence was clearly capable of supporting the Registrar's findings. No misapprehension of evidence or failure to address the issues was established.

Varty & Co. v. Camp, [2017] B.C.J. No. 2116, British Columbia Court of Appeal, A.W. MacKenzie, D.C. Harris and G.J. Fitch JJ.A., October 20, 2017. Digest No. TLD-November62017002