Paralegal Karen Fair summarizes Doerr v Paralegal, in which a plaintiff sued the paralegal she hired to sue another paralegal.
In this decision, Deputy Judge Glenn C. Walker found that a paralegal did not breach his duty of care and did not use duress in having his client sign Minutes of Settlement.
~ Deputy Judge Walker
In her evidence, the plaintiff stated that she had made it clear to the defendant that she would not settle for anything less than $10,000. She alleged that she signed the Minutes of Settlement under duress because she believed that she did not have another option. However, the plaintiff admitted that she did not find the defendant physically threatening nor did she contact the police, seek independent legal advice regarding the signed Minutes or bring a motion to set aside the April 21 endorsement. Further, the plaintiff thanked the defendant for representing her in the Frauts Action several times.
The defendant testified that he explained the settlement to the plaintiff and that he believed she understood the terms and “did not appear to be overly stressed.”
Opposing counsel from the Frauts Action, Elizabeth Hewitt, also provided testimony at the trial. She testified that in May 2012 she received a letter from the plaintiff’s new representative, requesting the settlement funds.
Credibility is Important
The Deputy Judge determined that the plaintiff’s evidence “lacked detail and was contradictory.” In contrast, the defendant’s testimony was “given in a straightforward and credible manner and to be consistent with what I find to be the normal practice in advising clients with respect to last minute settlements.” Furthermore, the Deputy Judge noted the plaintiff was still seeking the settlement funds up to a year after her paralegal-client relationship with the defendant ended.
In dismissing the claim, Deputy Judge Walker noted:
The Deputy Judge found the plaintiff’s behaviour unreasonable and adjusted costs accordingly. “In view of the facts of this case as found by the Court, I believe it is necessary to send the Plaintiff a message that proceeding to trial on Claims without some merit will attract costs consequences. I have therefore awarded costs of 15% of the amount claimed and doubled the same pursuant to Rule 14.07(1).”