Winning in court is one thing, but this Montrealer is learning that collecting doesn't come easy
Published Saturday, December 21, 2019 7:41PM EST Last Updated Saturday, December 21, 2019 8:10PM EST
MONTREAL -- It’s been a full year since Charles Anderson won a court case against a former client, but the branding consultant still hasn’t received any money and legal experts say his case isn’t unique.
Anderson was hired by a lawyer to do branding work on a website in 2017.
“It wasn’t a large scope of work and it was uneventful in every respect except I found that once I submitted the invoice, nothing happened,” said Anderson.
After taking the attorney to small claims court, a judge ruled that the lawyer must pay Anderson the full amount owed within 10 days.
“At that point I assumed that would be the end of it given that the individual was a lawyer and this was a directive from the court but that didn’t get a response and weeks went by,” said Anderson.
Ted Wright of the Westmount Legal Clinic said people like Anderson who have been stiffed even after a small claims ruling do have options.
“What the small claims does is give you the right to do it and you have to choose to do it,” he said.
While the court used to have a mechanism for collection, it’s no longer in force and individuals must carry out their own court orders by hiring a bailiff.
“They can cost money but often the cost of the bailiff is included in the judgment so you don’t have to pay those costs,” said Wright.
However, lawyer Allison Speigel said many defendants think they can get away with not paying.
“If you just don’t defend, you don’t show up and you say ‘you know what, go ahead, get a judgment, good luck collecting,’” she said.
Speigel pointed out something that Anderson learned firsthand: those with knowledge of the legal system can find loopholes to avoid payment.
“It’s not curious that this happened with a lawyer, it’s also sort of illustrative that it happened with a lawyer,” he said. “Perhaps lawyers understand how arduous the system is and how much of an impediment it is to getting any redress, whereas a layman will think the system is going to work the way they expect it to.”
While the lawyer has been reported to the Quebec Bar Association, their investigation is still ongoing eight months later. The bar association did not respond to a request for comment.
Anderson said that at this point, his pursuit of the case is about more than money.
“For me, from the onset, I wouldn’t have spent this long on it if it weren’t a matter of principle,” he said.