HERITAGE LAW OFFICES v BABICHUK, 2015 ABQB 321
10.5: Retainer agreements
The Defendants retained the Plaintiff law office to assist in administering their late father’s Estate and to obtain a Grant of Probate. The Defendants refused to pay the final account totalling $13,240.00, and had this account reviewed. At the review hearing, the legal fees of $13,240.00 were reduced to $600.00, plus disbursements. The law office appealed.
The Court noted that a Review Officer’s Decision is entitled to curial deference, and noted that the Taxation Officer’s function is a specialized one which requires experience and expertise. The Court noted that deference, however, is not absolute.
The Plaintiff law office submitted that Rule 10.5 embodied the basic principle that a Court must hold the parties to promises in any Retainer Agreement absent a compelling reason not to do so. Lee J. did not comment whether this interpretation was correct, however, his Lordship found that the Retainer Agreement in question was not clear with respect to how fees were to be calculated. The Court noted that, in order for the Appeal to succeed, the Plaintiff law office must demonstrate that the Review Officer made a clearly erroneous factual determination as to the Retainer Agreement. Given the conclusion that the Retainer Agreement was unclear, Justice Lee held that the Review Officer did not rely on any incorrect principles or make any erroneous factual determinations in the award. Lee J. concluded that the award was reasonable in the circumstances and should not be interfered with.
Accordingly, the Appeal was dismissed and Costs were awarded to the Defendants.View CanLII Details