Wednesday, September 23, 2009

 

Justices balk at lawyers running up the tab

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Something to think about, as the Basi-Virk / BC Rail Case drags on ... on ... on, in BC Supreme Court. - BC Mary.
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The high-end Vancouver law firm of Nathanson Schachter & Thompson does not deserve $10 million for winning a landmark mining lawsuit, the B.C. Court of Appeal says, because it failed to warn its client about the eye-popping bill.

By Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun - Sept. 9, 2009

In a complicated split decision by a five-judge panel, three justices on Tuesday reversed a previous precedent by the court and changed the law in B.C. governing legal billing practices.

Justices Mary Newbury, Kenneth Smith and Pamela Kirkpatrick concluded that a lawyer who fails to advise his or her client fully and fairly about fees should be prohibited later from billing on a basis other than the basis understood by the client.

Until now, some B.C. lawyers did not discuss fees with clients on purpose because it could limit what they billed later.

The justices said: "We are of the view that [Nathanson Schachter & Thompson] breached its duty to advise the client fully and fairly regarding the terms of the retainer and that in the circumstances, it is precluded from claiming a fee greater than the sum of the fees already paid by the client."

They emphasized, however, that the firm's breach did not connote any dishonesty or deceit.

It was the largest contested legal fee in B.C. history, which is not surprising considering it was rendered on account of one of the largest civil judgments in provincial precedence.

A different majority of the panel -- Justices Robert Bauman, David Frankel and Smith -- decided that the registrar in this case erred by focusing too much on hourly billing rates.

But that decision was moot since the panel had already concluded the firm was precluded from extra-billing. {Snip} ...

After an enormously complicated and lengthy legal fight, the courts awarded Inmet a whopping $112.9 million in damages and interest. It also got to keep the mine.

While everyone was heady with success, lead lawyer Irwin Nathanson arranged a dinner with various Inmet executives and dropped his own bomb.

He told them his firm figured that the payment of an additional $5 million would result in a "fair fee" for what they had accomplished.

Inmet CEO Richard Ross said he was "stunned and surprised" by the request. The company balked at paying and took the matter to court.

The law firm had submitted monthly accounts and, as part of the fee dispute, registrar Murray Blok examined those bills.

He concluded they were "rounded up" considerably from the firm's normal fee schedule, which then ranged from $375 to $500 an hour.

By the time the lawsuit wrapped up, he calculated that the law firm had billed about $1 million extra or 30 per cent more than its standard hourly rate, for a total of some $4.4 million. It also received a $1-million bonus, bringing the total pay packet to $5.25 million, roughly $1.88 million, or 56 per cent, more than its normal hourly rate schedule.

Lead counsel Irwin Nathanson said he considered the normal hourly rates inappropriately low, and that he always intended to bill a "fair fee" at the conclusion of the litigation. However, he did not tell Inmet that.

Registrar Blok noted: "It reflects ill on the profession that clients might feel -- albeit through misunderstandings -- that their lawyers, whom they have trusted with their most confidential and important matters, have been less than candid with them about their billing arrangements. It is disquieting, too, that the current state of the law would tend to discourage lawyers from being completely open with their clients over billing arrangements."

The court of appeal agreed that the situation should be changed.

It overturned its previous ruling, saying it failed "to take account of the lawyer's duty to be candid with his or her client concerning dealings between them."

imulgrew@vancouversun.com

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Comments:
Nathanson,(father and son),in the past have been hired by Hell's Angels. As well, Paul Martin when PM, hired Nathanson to keep an eye on the findings of the legislature raids....
God help us all!
 
OK...someone a whole lot smarter than I am needs to elaborate on this comment.

Why would the PM be concerned with the outcome of our li'l old BC Rail trial? Other than taking over a railway for a pittance of what it's truly worth in a faked auction that is...and making absolutely certain it went to the "bidder" determined by the backroom boys at least five years earlier?

Is Mr. Nathanson still a regular in the BCSC on days when the court is in session regarding the raid?

Skookum and Kootcoot...where are youuuuuu?? Help! :))
 
Well, Leah ...

I may not be among the smart ones in the peanut gallery ...

but I think if you look at the connections between Paul Martin and the Basi Boyz during the time when Martin was trying to unseat Chretien,

you'll find your answer.

Remember that every riding in B.C. was said to have been "Martinized" by the Boyz?
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