Man fi­nally gets com­pen­sa­tion af­ter lawyer cost him thou­sands

On­tario Law So­ci­ety makes resti­tu­tion af­ter li­a­bil­ity fund didn’t

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — A man who lost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars be­cause of a neg­li­gent lawyer, has fi­nally re­ceived par­tial com­pen­sa­tion years af­ter win­ning a court judg­ment that has proved un­en­force­able.

The $150,000 pay­out to Nal­liah Balachan­dran late last month came af­ter The Cana­dian Press re­ported in De­cem­ber 2018, on a glar­ing gap in the in­surance sys­tem de­signed to pro­tect vic­tims of un­scrupu­lous or in­com­pe­tent On­tario lawyers.

“This money will help,” Balachan­dran said. “At least I can pay off some debts.”

Balachan­dran, 64, now of Cal­gary, had been un­able to col­lect on $188,646 in dam­ages an On­tario Su­pe­rior Court jus­tice awarded him in 2012 against lawyer Michael (Mike) J. Web­ster, who was dis­barred af­ter an avalanche of com­plaints.

Other cases The Cana­dian Press re­viewed turned up sev­eral peo­ple who had lost out on com­pen­sa­tion for car-crash in­juries or ended up in jail be­cause lawyers failed to do their jobs.

None were able to col­lect on court-or­dered dam­ages, even though all mem­bers of On­tario’s le­gal pro­fes­sion must carry li­a­bil­ity cov­er­age through the in­surance com­pany known as LawPro.

De­spite ju­di­cial crit­i­cism of the sit­u­a­tion, LawPro de­nies cov­er­age when lawyers fail to re­port a client’s claim against them or refuse to help de­fend the ac­tion.

The re­sult is usu­ally dis­bar­ment — and clients left with­out ac­cess to com­pen­sa­tion.

Sev­eral lawyers try­ing to help hap­less clients ex­pressed dis­may LawPro, owned by the 50,000-mem­ber Law So­ci­ety of On­tario and with as­sets of close to $735 mil­lion, would take that po­si­tion.

“It’s very un­fair and un­for­tu­nate — and to my mind shock­ing,” one lawyer, Ava Hil­lier, said last year.

“Peo­ple need to know that they’ve got noth­ing if their lawyer just de­cides not to pick up the phone.”

What lawyers in­volved in such cases said they had never heard of, is a pol­icy the law so­ci­ety adopted in 1997. It pro­vides vic­tims of lawyers ac­cess to an in­ter­nal com­pen­sa­tion fund when LawPro de­clines cov­er­age. The fund can re­im­burse vic­tims up to $500,000.

Days af­ter an in­ter­view with its trea­surer last Novem­ber, the law so­ci­ety up­dated its web­site to ex­plic­itly re­fer to the ob­scure pol­icy. Five claims, in­clud­ing Balachan­dran’s, have since been made against the fund, one quar­ter of all claims in 1997. Two have been set­tled.

Over the past 20 years, a spokesper­son said, the fund has paid out a to­tal of $552,565 for 14 claims in­volv­ing 13 lawyers.

JEFF MCIN­TOSH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Nal­liah Balachan­dran has been com­pen­sated by the On­tario Law So­ci­ety via a spe­cial fund, but one that is lit­tle known.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.