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A Cautionary Tale from an Advice Columnist’s Ill-Advised Lawsuit

The Vancouver Sun detailed the legal struggles of a local celebrity this past Friday.

In a civil suit over a soured television deal, Rhona Raskin spent almost $150,000 in fees over the course of 5 years—without ever making it to trial on the merits of her case.

Although she was told the suit only had a 50-50 chance of success, Ms. Raskin wasn’t clear of what the suit would cost her. After losing a jurisdictional challenge (at which point the bill was $35,000), her lawyer recommended appealing, which would only cost $10,000.

The appeal wound up costing Ms. Raskin over $41,000. During a fee review hearing, Ms. Raskin’s attorney later admitted the estimate was “woefully low” and “one of my worst.”

As the case eventually moved forward, unfavorable evidence came to light during pre-trial discovery. Ms. Raskin’s attorney recommended pursuing a settlement via mediation, at the cost of an additional $50,000. Settlement negotiations failed however. To prepare for trial, the attorney asked for a $150,000 retainer.

Ms. Raskin balked at the idea, and sought the advice of another lawyer. Her new attorney convinced her to abandon the litigation, and also informed her of the Legal Profession Act, under which the British Columbia Supreme Court may review legal bills.

Sitting as a registrar, Justice Blok found there was no retainer letter or agreement for this litigation, nor any written estimate. Although the large retainer was deemed reasonable, Justice Blok did reduce fees, in part because the $10,000 estimate was so far off.

“I accept that significant industry was brought to bear on this file,” Justice Blok said. “The file was, at times, a hive of activity. But I am not at all convinced that the time was always efficiently or reasonably spent.”

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