Ontario lawyer Kathy Chittley-Young acted for a woman who was severely injured in a car accident. The lawyer intitially asked for $1.25 million in damages for her client’s injuries, but later settled for the sum of $750,000. The only remaining issue to be resolved was whether the agreed damages of $750,000 should be reduced because her injured client could be partially at fault in the accident.
The issue of fault was decided by a judge who reduced the injured woman’s damages to $375,000 finding her 50% responsible for the accident.
Once that matter was resolved, lawyer Ms. Chittley-Young sent her bill to her client, a bill that sought $560,000 in legal fees and $230,000 in disbursements. The fees billed reflected 1800 hours of lawyer and paralegal time, an amount most successful lawyers bill in a year for all their clients.
During the course of the litigation Ms. Chittley-Young’s client was unable to pay for disbursements which included the cost of expert medical reports, photocopying, court fees and other out-of-pocket expenses, so Ms. Chittley-Young recommended and arranged a loan for her client with a company called Lexfund Inc. The client borrowed $150,000 with an interest rate of 51% so that within 24 months the client owed $200,000 in interest alone.
Ms. Chittley-Young’s client successfully challenged her bill and Judge John Murray reduced the bill to $104,000. The disbursements of $230,000 were reduced to $120,000.
Mr. Justice Murray had this to say about the lawyer’s bill:
“The plaintiff, a woman of modest means, who suffered serious injuries in a motor
vehicle accident causing permanent impairment, is now faced with another burden of unimagined
proportions–a second catastrophic event–her legal costs. The legal costs and disbursements incurred
and claimed by Ms. Chittley-Young produce a result that is contrary to the fundamental objective
of access to justice.”
With respect to the loan from Lexfund Inc. the judge said:
” The interest rate on the loan obtained by the plaintiff for disbursements is unconscionable.
It is difficult to believe that any lawyer would refer a vulnerable client to such a
It is hard to believe that a lawyer who obtained $375,000 for her client would charge $790,000 in fees and disbursements. What was she thinking?
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang