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ICBC Opposes Translator Fees on Basis of Law Firm Advertising

Reasons for judgment were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the reasonableness of private translator fees incurred by a lawfirm advancing a personal injury case.
In this week’s case (Jin v. Caleca) the Plaintiff, whose first language is Mandarin and whose “ability to communicate in the English language is very limited” hired a personal injury lawfirm to advance her case.  The firm hired a translator which assisted in communicating with the client.  When the case settled ICBC challenged this disbursement arguing that based on the law firm’s advertisements ICBC should not be on the hook for this expense.  District Registrar Cameron disagreed and ordered that the disbursement be paid. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[4]             The Defendants do not take any issue with the decision by the law firm to retain a translator to assist the lawyers in the firm to fully and effectively communicate with the Plaintiff.  It is conceded that this was a proper or necessary disbursement.
[5]             Further, the Defendants do not take any issue with the reasonableness of the translation fees claimed in the sum of $1,122.27. Rather, they ground their objection to paying this disbursement on their interpretation of the print advertising done by the law firm aimed at attracting new clients to the firm.
[6]             There is a considerable amount of affidavit evidence before me, but the matter resolves down to this:  at the time that this retainer agreement was entered into on February 5th, 2010, the law firm web site was silent as to what obligation, if any, a client would have to pay the cost of translation fees.  At the time the web site provided that the law firm offered services in a number of foreign languages.
[7]             Approximately one year later, in February 2011, the law firm web site advertisement was changed and it said that translator fees are provided “at no cost to you”. Based on this change to the web site advertising, Ms. Hall, on behalf of the Defendants, submitted that there should be read into the fee agreement between the Plaintiff in this case and the law firm a provision that she would be held harmless for any translation fees and as such she ought not to be able to recover them on this assessment.
[8]             With respect, I do not agree. While I will not express a view as to whether or not there ought to be any recovery of a translation disbursement incurred for a client who retained the law firm after the change to the advertisement in February 2011, it is common ground that in February 2010 when the subject retainer was entered into there was no term in the retainer agreement that held the Plaintiff harmless for any translation fees.
[9]             There was no evidence before me to support any amendment to the existing retainer agreement between the Plaintiff and her law firm and based upon the concessions I have noted that were made by the Defendants, the disbursement is allowed.

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