FitzGibbon et al. v. Piters 2012 BCCA 269
Barristers and Solicitors - Solicitor’s lien - Charging orders - General
Hammerberg Altman Beaton & Maglio LLP (the Law Firm), and in particular Maglio, acted for the appellant, FitzGibbon, under a contingency fee contract. Settlement negotiations did not result in an agreement. Maglio withdrew. FitzGibbon retained the appellant, Piters. A settlement was eventually concluded, and funds were paid to Piters in trust. Piters transferred the settlement funds to FitzGibbon. The Law Firm applied for: (a) a charge against the funds, pursuant to s. 79 of the Legal Profession Act; (b) an order that FitzGibbon and Piters be held jointly and severally liable for an amount to be assessed; and (c) an order remitting the matter to the Registrar for taxation. The Chambers judge granted those orders. Piters appealed. FitzGibbon appealed.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals. There was no basis for interfering with the chambers judge’s conclusion that the Law Firm had met the criteria for granting a charging order under s. 79 of the Act. The argument that a charging order could not have retrospective effect was not supported either by the language of the statute or by the relevant caselaw. The court saw no error in the chambers judge’s conclusions that Piters was jointly and severally liable with FitzGibbon. FitzGibbon’s submission that the charging order should not have effect against her because she was not a lawyer, and not subject to the Act, could not be sustained. “The Legal Profession Act is a law of general application in the Province of British Columbia. It governs all persons as it may apply in the particular circumstances of any case.”