Ruling invalidates litigators’ deal in landmark suit

Lawyers involved in a landmark class action lawsuit that won same-sex couples full access to Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits stand to lose millions thanks to an unexpected court development that blocks their ability to collect fees from pension funds.



A retainer agreement — approved by an Ontario court four years ago — called for the class action lawyers to be paid 50 per cent of certain pension arrears to cover legal fees.



But in recent months, lawyers for the federal government came forward to challenge that arrangement.

In a Feb. 29 ruling, Justice Ellen Macdonald agreed with federal lawyers that the Canada Pension Plan — which prevents pension benefits from being claimed by others, including creditors — invalidates the fee agreement.

The latest decision could mean a jackpot for an estimated 1,500 claimants. But it could also mean a loss of more than $15 million for a team of lawyers who spent seven years working on the case.

Hislop case

  • The lawsuit — known as the Hislop case, for the late George Hislop, a Toronto activist who was the lead plaintiff — was the first class action in the world to allege a violation of gay and lesbian rights.