Breached Legal Referral Deal Leads to Lawsuit

A Calgary lawyer may be in breach of the provincial code of conduct for agreeing to “split legal fees with a local doctor” according to the Law Society of Alberta.

With an outside perspective, Dr. Ian Mitchell, an ethicist at the University of Calgary, says there does appear to be a conflict. “The difficulty is if you have conflicts of interests, even if they’re declared, they may affect your judgment [and] you may not do the right thing medically,” he said.

The court documents suggest that Steve Grover promised Dr. Jean-Pierre Kamel half of his legal fees in return for patient referrals. In the court documents obtained by CBC News, Dr. Kamel says that “he referred 600 patients to Grover but wasn’t paid.”

Now, Dr. Kamel is seeking a $2 million in a lawsuit. Don Thompson, the executive director of the law society said he is aware of the statement of claim, but declined to comment if an internal investigation was underway.

The Law Society has special rules regarding legal fees. “One of those specific rules is that lawyers can’t split their fees with a non-lawyer, so that really makes it improper for them to say, ‘I’m going to take a referral fee or I’m going to work with some non-lawyer who brings me work and I split my fee with them.’ So that’s prohibited,” he said.

In addition to the legal fee conventions of the Law Society, there may be a medical ethics breach with regard to Dr. Kamel’s willingness to recommend his patients seek legal council from a specific lawyer, when he had an expectation of financial reward for doing so.

Kelly Eby, a spokesperson for the College of Physicians and Surgeons refused to comment on this case, but stately broadly that, if the agreement exists it may breach the physicians’ code of conduct.

Eby noted, “there are two key pieces in the code of ethics, one is to not exploit patients for any personal benefit in any way, shape or form.” She continued, “that’s also repeated in the CPSA code of conduct. And also in the code of ethics, physicians are required to recognize and disclose any conflicts of interest that they may have.” 

The legal team Miller Thomson can protect you from involving yourself in conflict of interest contracts. If you need legal assistance to draft a contract or business arrangement, contact our lawyers in Calgary today.

Posted on April 24th, 2014