Discreditable conduct

Ministry of the Attorney General (Legal Aid Ontario)

Date: 2010

A woman contacted the Ombudsman after learning that Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) had sent her file to a collection agency, accusing her of failing to pay an outstanding bill and affecting her credit rating. The bill stemmed from a contribution for legal services agreement she had signed in 2004, but she believed she had paid the bill in full in 2005, based on a statement Legal Aid provided to her.

An Ombudsman staff member reviewed her case with LAO staff. Legal Aid noted that it had paid two bills to the woman’s lawyer in 2004 and 2005, for a total of $1,851.61. But the documents showed it had neglected to send one of the bills to the woman for her to pay her share of the fees. It had also failed to pursue the case until 2008 because she had moved; she did not provide LAO with her new address because she believed her dealings with them were finished. As a result of the  mbudsman’s inquiries, Legal Aid provided the woman with a letter explaining the errors it had made on her account. It also apologized for the confusion, notified the collection agency and agreed to write off the outstanding balance.