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Monday, December 6, 2010

LAWYER HELPED IN $1.5M FRAUD

A Toronto lawyer has had his licence revoked for his part in a $1.5-million insurance fraud.

Pradeep Bridglal Pachai admitted to taking part in a scheme that saw a senior employee at an insurance company client authorize higher payments to settle litigation than was needed and the two men pocketing the difference.

Pachai claimed he was pressured into the scheme by Vinti Sansanwal, national claims director at HB Group Insurance Management Ltd., fearing he would cut him off from legal work defending the company, which had become his largest client.

Initially, Pachai said he thought the arrangement was for one time only, but between 2005 and 2007, the scam snowballed, netting the pair $1.5 million from 11 files with the lawyer keeping $675,000 of the spoils for his role.

The scheme came crashing down after an anonymous tip led to an investigation and Sansanwal’s dismissal. The insurance company then launched a civil action to recover the funds that named Pachai as a defendant. After he made restitution, the claim against him was dismissed.

Close family and four lawyer colleagues acted as character witnesses for Pachai during the hearing. They labelled his actions as being out of character.

In the meantime, Pachai asked the Law Society of Upper Canada to impose a lengthy ban, but the panel disagreed, noting the mitigating circumstances weren’t sufficient “to justify a second chance.”

“There is no satisfactory explanation for his misconduct; it was a self-interested, economic choice which was not forced upon him, even if it was devised and initiated by Mr. Sansanwal.

Nor was it unavoidable, in the sense that it was out of character because it was caused by a disability, addiction or any similar factor,” wrote Bencher Raj Anand on behalf of the three-person panel.

The panel awarded no costs, noting Pachai had co-operated fully and wouldn’t be able to pay since having voluntarily ceased practice in 2008.

FORMER CBA PRESIDENT DIES

Former Canadian Bar Association president Claude Thomson has died at home in Toronto.

Thomson, who also served as president of the International Bar Association, was 77 years old.

Thomson was called to the bar in 1958 after graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School and practised for many years as a senior litigation partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.

According to an obituary in The Globe and Mail, he became a chartered arbitrator recognized internationally for his work in the resolution of complex commercial disputes.

The Law Society of Upper Canada recognized Thomson’s contribution to the profession in 2005 by awarding him an honorary LLD.

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CIVIL JUSTICE GROUP MOVES TO YORK[/span]

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice is relocating to York University from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

The independent non-profit organization, which promotes an accessible and efficient civil justice system, will work with York’s Centre for Public Policy and Law and Osgoode Hall Law School from its location at the university’s new multidisciplinary research facilities.

A multi-year mapping project on legal services in Alberta will wrap up in the new year in advance of the move.

“The forum looks forward to the exciting opportunities that partnership with the [centre for public policy] and Osgoode will bring to the forum’s capacity to conduct socio-legal research, particularly a proposed new broad-based international collaboration to research the cost of civil justice in Canada,” said forum chairman Trevor Farrow.

COMPANY LOSES BID TO EXAMINE LAWYER

A helicopter company being sued over the crash of one of its fleet has failed in an effort to force the plaintiff’s former lawyer to appear for examination after the plaintiff blamed him for the delay in the case.

Patrick Portelance’s action against Capital City Helicopters was struck off the trial list in 2003, nearly eight years after the initial crash in the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

Since then, there have been several unsuccessful attempts at settlement. But Portelance claimed his lawyer, James Virtue, took two years to tell him the action was struck from the trial list and that, even then, he failed to explain the consequences properly.

Earlier this year, when he realized the action wasn’t proceeding, Portelance moved to have the action restored to the trial list. But the defendants countered with a motion to dismiss it for delay along with an additional request that Virtue appear for examination.

But Superior Court Justice Thomas Granger, writing in his decision last month that there was no evidentiary basis for it, dismissed the request for leave to examine Virtue.

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