Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

Timothy Jeremy Vondette

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: May 19, 1986

Discipline hearing: October 2, 2018

Panel: Sarah Westwood, chair; Gillian Dougans; and Carol Gibson

Decision issued: December 3, 2018 (2018 LSBC 36)

Counsel: Sarah Conroy and Tara McPhail for the Law Society, Michael Shirreff and Jennifer Crosman for Timothy Jeremy Vondette

AGREED FACTS

A client retained Timothy Jeremy Vondette to handle the client’s claims with respect to four motor vehicle accidents in three BC Supreme Court actions. A jury ultimately awarded the client $307,159 in damages.

Vondette received $307,159 in payment of the damages award, deposited the funds into trust, and disbursed the funds to the client and to his own law corporation in payment of fees.

Vondette drafted bills of costs and communicated with opposing counsel regarding the outstanding costs and disbursements payable. A pre-hearing conference resulted in an order setting out steps in respect of a costs hearing before a registrar.

In subsequent years, Vondette took only limited steps to advance the costs issue. Vondette’s client tried repeatedly to contact Vondette, and Vondette did not respond in any substantive manner.

After the client complained to the Law Society, Vondette took steps to retain more experienced counsel to help finalize the materials necessary to have the costs issue adjudicated by the registrar. Vondette finally obtained a hearing date for the costs issue. It took Vondette approximately five years from the date of judgment to resolve the costs issue.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

The panel found that Vondette had failed to provide the quality of service expected of a competent lawyer. The panel was of the view that a five-year delay would usually warrant a larger fine than that proposed. However, in all of the circumstances, including Vondette’s financial circumstances, his lack of a discipline record, the absence of dishonesty in this one-time offence, and the steps he had taken toward remediation, the panel approved a fine at the low end of the appropriate range.

The panel approved Vondette’s conditional admission of professional misconduct and proposed disciplinary action, both of which had been accepted by the Discipline Committee.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel ordered that Vondette pay:

  1. a fine of $3,000, and
  2. costs of $1,261.25.

2018 LSBC 36 Decision of the Hearing Panel