The Case of the Lost Ostriches

T agreed to go into the ostrich farm business with two brothers. They hired lawyer H to be their lawyer to purchase the land where they would operate the farm. They got financing from a financial institution. The financing was conditional on T securing the loan with three ostriches he owned.

Lawyer H was a director of the financial institution and did its legal work. The business plan called for the money to be used to buy emus. T went to H’s office and signed the loan documents and pledged his ostriches.

Later the two brothers decided to purchase two ostriches instead of emus. They didn’t ask T if it was OK. They asked the financial institution to send the money to the lawyer H. H, on the instructions of the two brothers, wired the money to Oklahoma to purchase two ostriches. H never consulted T to find out if all of this was OK with T.

When T found out the money had been disbursed without his consent, he terminated his relationship with the brothers. The financial institution sued T and he lost the ostriches he had pledged.

T made a complaint to the Law Society and the Law Society found that H had a conflict of interest. T sued H. Despite the finding of the Law Society, the Law Society insurers and H denied that H had a conflict of interest.

In October of 2004 I did the trial on behalf of T. The judge found in favour of T and H was ordered to pay the value of the pledged ostriches plus interest plus costs. The judge found that H did indeed have a conflict of interest and that H had breached his fiduciary obligations to T.

T has this to say about Jeff Poole:

“Jeff helped me when no one else would. Lawyers don’t like to sue other lawyers. He took on a difficult case, worked hard for me and pursued it to trial. I was very pleased to work with Jeff.”

Note from Jeff: The Reasons for Decision at trial in T’s case can be downloaded on this site under Recent Decisions. Notwithstanding that the Law Society of Alberta had found that H had a conflict of interest and the trial judge the same, the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association, a wholly owned subisidiary of the Law Society of Alberta, appealed. The Alberta Court of Appeal concurred with the Trial Judge and denied the appeal. Their decision can also be found on this site under Recent Decisions.