As a professional, one is never pleased to hear of a colleague being found liable in negligence. However, there are always lessons to be learned.
Ozerdinc Family Trust v. Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP is unfortunately an example of a case where, apparently, a simple failure to account for the deemed disposition date of trust assets resulted in an avoidable tax liability. While the defendant solicitors admitted acting below the standard of care in failing to inform the plaintiffs respecting the date and consequences of the deemed disposition of the capital assets of the trust, liability was resisted on the theory that the mistake didn’t cause the loss as the plaintiffs/trustees had retained accountants who, the plaintiffs pleaded, should have been tracking and reporting on the deemed disposition date. The point was determined in a motion for summary judgment which was decided in favour of the plaintiffs; the mistake was sufficiently causative on its own.
What can one learn? It seems reasonable that the culprit here is faulty communication given that the firm and lawyers involved were of adequate experience and expertise to meet the applicable standard of care. As LawPro reminds us, mistakes are easy to make and standardized reporting systems help to avoid such errors.