Ed Horne victims file suit against lawyers who represented them
Suit alleges Budden Morris Law Office paid itself more than it was entitled to
Thirty-two victims of convicted pedophile Ed Horne, who reached a $15.5 million settlement with the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in 2011, are now suing the lawyers who represented them.
In a statement of claim filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice on Aug. 25, the complainants allege Geoffrey Budden, Stuart Morris and the now-dissolved Budden Morris Law Offices, paid themselves more than the 33.3 per cent they were entitled to from the settlement.
The complainants also allege they didn't receive any or all of a portion of the settlement that was supposed to be invested by the lawyers and paid out to the victims with interest. They also allege that some who misplaced their cheques were refused when they asked for new ones, even after the cheques were stale dated.
It's unclear exactly how much the complainants are seeking in losses and punitive damages. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The complainants also argue the Contingency Fee Retainer Agreements (CFA) should be voided, because they allege the lawyers took advantage of a language barrier when they were signed.
When the lawyers went out into the communities to bring victims into the lawsuit against the governments, the lawyers took advantage of their "superior knowledge of the English language and their legal knowledge, to persuade the [complainants] to sign the CFAs without fully understanding them," the statement of claim alleges.
The complainants also argue they were charged in excess for the fees and disbursements of the settlement, and when they brought it to the attention of Budden and Morris, the firm refused to reimburse them and indicated they would resist any effort to get the money back.
James Morton is representing Budden and Morris and denied all the allegations against his clients.
"In the South, for straightforward and personal injury litigation, a lawyer might take 20 to 25 per cent of the recovery," Morton said. "But that's not the Ed Horne situation at all. Ed Horne was a very complex, difficult and uncertain piece of litigation."
Morton said he plans to file a statement of defence within the next two months.
But in the meantime, another lawsuit could be in the works. In 2002, another group of Horne's victims settled a $21.5 million lawsuit with the territorial governments. Last week, the complainants' lawyer Alan Regel was in an Iqaluit courtroom filing a motion to access Budden's files from the 2002 suit, which would suggest the possibility of a second lawsuit against Budden.