No appeal of fee decision in Home for Colored Children case
Lawyers to get $5.7M in legal fees
There will be no appeal of a court ruling on legal fees from a $34-million class-action settlement for people who allege they were abused at a defunct Halifax orphanage, their lawyer said Friday.
Ray Wagner said his firm doesn't want to cause any further harm to former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children after all they have gone through to get the combined settlement from the province and the orphanage.
"Despite our belief that we did have some reasonable cause to bring an appeal, we chose in the interest of the residents not to do so," said Wagner.
Wagner had proposed that his firm receive $6.6 million from the settlement, citing the amount of time and labour it took to secure the settlement after 16 years.
But Judge Arthur LeBlanc of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court instead awarded his firm $5.78 million in a decision Thursday.
Wagner said as a result, his firm would absorb $300,000 to $400,000 in costs for expert reports that the original claimants in the class-action lawsuit would have had to pay under the court decision.
"I'll pay the lion's share of that personally," he said.
Tony Smith, one of the former residents who helped spearhead the legal fight, said many agree prolonging the court process would have split those who are eligible for payments under the settlement.
Smith said many of the former residents made that clear to the court in affidavits supporting the original claim by the lawyers for $6.6 million in legal fees.
"We don't understand why the judge made this decision," said Smith. "We are not complaining about it and this is causing more harm because we feel badly that [Wagner] is not getting what he deserves to get."
Smith said the disbursement of payments from the settlement, which had been delayed until the judge's decision, will likely begin next week.
The $34 million agreement, finalized in July, is divided into two payout categories.
One is a common experience settlement, which applies to all residents who lived in the Halifax orphanage between Jan. 1, 1921, and Dec. 31, 1989.
The other is an individual assessment program, which would address additional harms beyond those suffered by residents at large, including sexual abuse. Only residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children after Nov. 1, 1951, would be eligible.
Wagner has said as many as 400 people are eligible for the payments.
Premier Stephen McNeil gave a formal apology last week to the former residents of the home. He has also promised to launch a public inquiry into the alleged abuse at the home.