Former associate sues Tony Merchant and Merchant Law Group for $1.25M

A lawyer who used to work with the Merchant Law Group in Regina is suing the firm and its principals for $1.25 million.

Casey Churko joined the firm as an associate in July 2005, according to his website, and worked on a number of high-profile class action lawsuits, including one launched on behalf of Sixties Scoop survivors, and one on behalf of people who had used the painkiller Oxycontin.

In a statement of defence, Merchant rejects the allegations as " scandalous and vexatious."

Churko alleges that Tony Merchant unilaterally tried to change the terms of Churko's "associate agreement" after fees came in from class actions suits.

"The Defendants could not 'change the deal' after fees came in on class action files," Churko alleged in a statement of claim filed at Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon on Jan. 16.

"In response, Tony loudly shouted toward his office door: (A) "not only can I, I have changed the deal with every other lawyer in this office" and "I always change the deal."

CBC

Churko alleges that Merchant was slow to pay for work done, which left Churko having to pay experts, court reporters and legal databases.

He also claims that Merchant deliberately shortchanged lawyers in the firm when it came to paying for their work on the major class action files.

"The Defendants entered false and fraudulent time entries and manipulated time sheets, fees and records that eliminated or reduced the Plaintiff's fee entitlements on class action files," the statement of claim said.

These allegations have not been tested in court.

Law firm disputes allegations

Merchant and the firm filed a statement of defence Feb. 20.

"There is no factual basis for the allegations contained in the Claim," the defence statement said.

It said that the contractual arrangement between Churko and the firm could be terminated by either party on notice, or by a narrow set of circumstances.

"LIke all law firms, MLG (Merchant Law Group) could vary the terms of the contractual arrangement for its associates, and the contractual arrangement with the Plaintiff was varied from time to time."

Merchant also countered that the firm disputes how much Churko claimed he worked.

"In the years prior to the end of the contractual arrangement in August, 2018, it became difficult to get work from the Plaintiff," the statement of defence said.

"Increasingly in 2017 and 2018, the Plaintiff almost never attended at any MLG office. His suggestion that he was working long hours from home is an issue."

Further, the firm claimed that Churko owes the company $146,000 in loans.

It wants the court to dismiss the statement of claim with costs, and order Churko to to pay back the amount it alleges is owing.