A Pelham, Ont. lawyer has been awarded $20,000 in costs from a former client who libelled him in newspaper ads and Web sites after a fee dispute.
Leigh Daboll won a $50,000 judgment in January for defamatory comments made by Mark DeMarco about his criminal record and disciplinary history.
Daboll wanted his costs paid on a full indemnity basis, asking Superior Court Justice Richard Lococo to award him $57,000, arguing that DeMarco unduly lengthened the trial.
The Niagara-area lawyer had offered to settle for $10,000, plus a promise that DeMarco would remove the postings about him and stop complaining about him to the Law Society of Upper Canada. That came two weeks before the trial, which eventually went for nine days in September 2010, having been scheduled for just four.
“I agree with Mr. Daboll that Mr. DeMarco’s conduct of the trial caused it to be unnecessarily prolonged,” Lococo wrote in the May 9 ruling. But he found that wasn’t enough for full indemnification, putting the inefficiency in part down to his lack of legal representation.
For his part, DeMarco offered to pay nominal costs, arguing that Daboll had increased costs by filing unnecessary documents and alleging that the lawyer had come to court with “unclean hands.” — a reference to Daboll’s past law society disciplinary problems.
Daboll represented DeMarco in matrimonial litigation in 2003 with his own estranged spouse, but the relationship quickly deteriorated. A lengthy assessment process initially reduced the account that was worth less than $4,000 before a review by the court reversed the decision and made a costs award against DeMarco.
In November 2008, Daboll finally collected on that judgment with a writ of execution and seizure satisfied by the proceeds from a property sold by DeMarco.
That’s when ads about Daboll began appearing in local newspapers under the title “Lawyer Crime Ontario.” The same ads appeared on dirtylawyer.com and lawsocietiesreform.com, two web sites run by DeMarco. In his original decision, Lococo said DeMarco went too far by wrongly implying that Daboll was still on probation for a harassment conviction from the law society, and found his ads were malicious.
“Individual fragments of the advertisement arguably had some basis in fact but they were expressed and juxtaposed in a manner that I find to be inconsistent with the truth,” Lococo wrote.