Lawyers win class action, don't get paid

The Canadian government is fighting the fee agreement because CPP can't be claimed by other people

By Melissa Kluger

On Sunday March 23rd, 2008

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A team of lawyers who spent seven years on the Hislop class action case could lose the $15 million dollars they expected to earn after winning the landmark suit that gave same-sex couples full access to Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits. Under their retainer agreement, the lawyers on the case were to be paid 50 percent of the pension arrears. However, the federal government has challenged the fee arrangement, since benefits under the CPP cannot be claimed by others, including creditors.

In a February 29 ruling at the Superior Court, Justice Ellen Macdonald agreed with the government, and further proceedings are ahead to determine where to go from here. This decision would come as good news to the surviving same-sex partners who won’t have to share their benefits with their lawyers, and very bad news to Douglas Elliott and his team who took the case through trial and two appeals and now won’t be able to recover a cent for their years of work.