The administration of justice will be affected if the lawyer remains: court
In a recent personal injury action, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ordered the removal of the plaintiff's counsel of record due to a conflict of interest.
In Horvat v. Alam, 2024 ONSC 51, the defendants, Muhammad Alam and Alam Law Firm, had moved for an order removing Douglas LaFramboise as counsel of record for the plaintiff, Adalbert Horvat. The defendants alleged that LaFramboise's dual roles as counsel and a potential witness created a conflict that could compromise the proper administration of justice.
The case stems from a workplace injury in 2017, where a forklift struck the plaintiff, Horvat. The plaintiff retained the defendants, Muhammad Alam and Alam Law Firm, to pursue a compensation claim. Eventually, the plaintiff commenced an action against Alam Law, alleging negligent representation. The plaintiff's counsel of record was Douglas LaFramboise.
One key element of the case was LaFramboise's involvement in the negotiations between Horvat and the defendants Rabba Foods and Coopers Limited, the property owner where the forklift injury occurred. These defendants retained LaFramboise to defend them in the forklift action. The court found that LaFramboise's previous role as counsel for the defendants in the original forklift injury claim posed a significant conflict of interest if he represented the plaintiff in an action against Alam Law.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice considered various factors outlined in legal precedents, including the stage of proceedings, the likelihood of the witness being called, and the impact of removing counsel on the party's right to be represented by counsel of choice. The court determined that allowing LaFramboise to continue acting for the plaintiff would detrimentally affect the administration of justice.
The defendants argued that LaFramboise was directly involved in the events that led to the litigation between the plaintiffs and Alam Law. Further, the damages that the plaintiff alleged he suffered all occurred when LaFramboise was counsel for the defendants in the original forklift injury claim.
The court acknowledged that the plaintiff has the right to choose legal representation. However, the court also gave weight to the inherent conflict arising from LaFramboise's previous role, stating that a fair-minded, reasonably informed member of the public would conclude that removing LaFramboise is necessary for the proper administration of justice.
Accordingly, the court granted the defendants' request to remove LaFramboise as counsel of record for the plaintiff.