Monday, April 29, 2013

Former costs grid of no relevance to solicitor client assessments with proper retainers

Bales Beall LLP v. Fingrut, 2013 ONCA 266 provides:

[8]          Second, the motion judge held that the assessment officer erred by treating the former costs grid as the benchmark for setting the appropriate hourly rates for the lawyers and support staff involved in the management of the appellant's case, notwithstanding the existence of a written retainer agreement that specified the applicable rates and terms of the fee agreement between the parties.

[9]          We agree.  The assessment officer paid scant attention to the terms of the retainer agreement.  The agreement and the monthly interim accounts delivered by the solicitors detailed, in clear and unambiguous language, the nature of the services provided and the fees associated with those services.  The assessment officer provided no meaningful explanation for his substitution of an entirely different set of hourly billing rates.

[10]       Moreover, even when in effect, the costs grid on which the assessment officer relied in utilizing different, and significantly lower, hourly rates did not pertain to costs between a solicitor and his or her own client.  Nor were the substantial indemnity billing rates contemplated by that grid the equivalent of the full indemnity rates on which the solicitors' accounts were based.

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