Most lawyers would be quick to warn a self-represented litigant of the dangers associated with representing themselves in court, especially in a matter as personal and emotional as wrongful dismissal.
A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court shows the importance of lawyers heeding their own advice when they themselves are a party to court proceedings.
In the case Sachedina v. De Rose, a lawyer attempted to initiate proceedings against a law firm that had previously retained him as independent contractor. In a Statement of Claim that was 87 pages in length and that contained 259 paragraphs, he alleged that the firm had wrongfully terminated his services. The Plaintiff’s Notice of Action was issued three days short of the second anniversary of his termination.
The claim was struck down by the judge in its entirety, although the Plaintiff was granted leave to amend and re-file the Statement of Claim.
The reasons given for striking down the Statement of Claim included:
- The claim went far beyond the material facts that are supposed to be in a Statement of Claim
- The Plaintiff pleaded facts that were irrelevant and repetitive
- The Plaintiff embellished certain facts as evidenced by his repeated use of the word “heinous,” among other examples
- The claim did not provide particulars with respect to the actual damages caused as a result of the termination
This case demonstrates how difficult it can be to be objective on matters affecting one’s employment and how anyone, even legal practitioners, can benefit from obtaining independent legal advice from an experienced employment lawyer.
This decision also highlights the issue of employees using legal proceedings to publicize sensitive information about the practices of their former employer to put pressure on them to resolve claims of wrongful termination.
The judge specifically noted the Plaintiff’s use of his Statement of Claim to detail “the inner working of the firm and members of the firm.”
This tactic should be particularly avoided in cases where it would constitute a breach of solicitor-client privilege. The Plaintiff was found to have breached this duty by his insertion of many paragraphs that disclosed confidential client information and even related to in-house discussions of counsel at the firm.
The judge condemned the tactics using strong language that referred to the Statement of Claim as a “evidentiary diary of or story” that had simply too many problems with it for a “band-aid solution.”
Much of this could have been avoided had the Plaintiff retained the services of an impartial legal representative before drafting his own pleading.
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