Ed Horne victims discouraged, and dying, as lawsuit drags on
Main case still in limbo as lawyers battle over negligence accusations
Victims of convicted pedophile Ed Horne are getting discouraged, losing faith in the justice system, and two have even died, the court heard as their convoluted lawsuit resurfaced in an Iqaluit courtroom on Tuesday.
More than 100 victims are suing their former lawyers who represented them in a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Government of the Northwest Territories. They allege Geoffrey Budden and Stuart Morris took too big a share of the settlement, and wrongfully charged HST. They launched the lawsuit in August 2015.
But the lawsuit came to a screeching halt in October 2016 after their new lawyer, Alan Regel, was himself sued over allegations of negligence in recuperating the HST. Budden and Morris's lawyer, James Morton, argued Regel could have got the HST back from the federal government, rather than suing Budden and Morris for it.
Because Regel had become a defendant in the case — known as a third party notice — he couldn't simultaneously represent his clients because it put him in a conflict of interest.
Tuesday's court proceeding was the first big development in the lawsuit in more than a year — since Regel was sidelined — as the court heard arguments on whether Regel could stay on the case.
A stall tactic
Lawyer John Rossall was brought on to argue the third party notice for Regel.
He sought to have it thrown out, arguing it was a stall tactic by Budden and Morris's lawyer to avoid handing over documents in the case, despite three separate court orders to do so.
Rossall pointed to several examples to support his argument, notably how the third party notice was filed at the very last minute — on the eve of a deadline to file other documents — despite being ready to go weeks earlier.
"The filing of the third party notice was simply a stalling and delaying tactic on the part of the defence," Rossall argued.
"They have managed to drive a wedge between the plaintiffs and their [lawyers]. They have managed to delay proceedings for over a year. They have managed to discourage certain plaintiffs from proceeding."
Rossall also argued Regel didn't owe any duty to Budden and Morris over recuperating the HST, because he represents the Horne victims and not Budden and Morris.
Morton agreed that in his capacity as the lawyer for the victims, Regel didn't have a duty to Budden and Morris. But Morton argued that outside of Regel's role of representing his clients, Regel did have a duty to go through the proper channels to recoup the HST, so Budden and Morris wouldn't have to pay for Regel's mistake.
Justice Paul Bychok reserved his decision on the third party issue, though he didn't give a timeline on when he may have his decision.
The main lawsuit — the one over the victims's share of the Horne settlement — is still in limbo until the third party issue is resolved.