B.C. lawyer accused of charging client with dementia $475K granted anonymity | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. lawyer accused of charging client with dementia $475K granted anonymity

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April 12, 2021 - 6:00 AM

A B.C. lawyer who charged "unreasonably high fees" of $475,000 to a client with dementia, has managed to keep his name out of the story after a provincial regulator accused him of professional misconduct.

The dispute between the unnamed lawyer and the provincial regulator, the Law Society, started after the lawyer's client died in 2016 and the society launched an investigation into his actions.

In 2019 the Law Society's discipline committee told the lawyer it was going to make public its findings that he'd committed professional misconduct between 2011 and 2019 by taking fees from his client when he was not entitled to and that the fees were "unreasonably high."

However, the lawyer fought the Law Society's action arguing publishing his name would be "ruinous" to his professional reputation and livelihood.

Few details are given about the lawyer only that he'd been practicing since 1978 and has a well-established real estate and trust practice.

The dispute over the lawyer's anonymity made its way through the courts, which sided with the lawyer in keeping his name out of the findings.

The case ended up at the B.C. Court of Appeal with the Law Society again arguing, that in the importance of "transparency and accountability," it was reasonable to publish the lawyer's name.

In its March 29 decision, the province's highest court said the Law Society had used an unwritten policy that was unavailable to the lawyer when it made the decision to publish his name.

The Law Society argued that the public had a right to know the name of a lawyer so that people could make an informed choice when considering whether to retain that lawyer.

However, in an unanimous decision, the three-judge panel sided with the lawyer.

The decision says in 2007 he became involved in an estate plan with a client described as "a woman with assets of some significance." He was given power of attorney in the event of her death or that she be declared mentally incompetent.

The following year she was moved into a home as she was suffering from dementia and under his power of attorney, the lawyer took over her personal and financial responsibilities.

He billed her hourly, taking the money directly from her trust until she died in 2016.

"Up to the date of the Law Society’s involvement, the Lawyer had taken approximately $475,000 in fees from the Trust," reads the decision.

The decision says in a separate court in January, the lawyer won his case and the judge concluded he was permitted to take his fees from the Trust without advanced approval from the court. The decision does not mention whether the fees were deemed reasonable only that the matter of fees would be "referred" for "assessment."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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