An Alberta lawyer reported they gave statements of claim to a court runner to file at Court, but it was subsequently discovered that the court runner had allegedly returned falsely stamped statements of claim and pocketed the filing fee.
The fraud was detected when the lawyer tried to file a discontinuance in the settlement of an action and it was discovered the action number was bogus. This led to the finding that a court runner had allegedly falsified the stamping of the statement of claim and somehow cashed the cheque for the filing fee. The lawyer then checked other files for Court cash register receipts and found a second file with a bogus action number (and again, it appeared the court runner had allegedly cashed the cheque for filing fees). Fortunately, both of the actions were within the applicable limitation periods.
ALIA is highly concerned about this matter. If statements of claim are falsely filed and this is not discovered until after the applicable limitation period has run, a claim for a missed limitation period may arise. Claims for missed limitation periods may present substantial losses to individual lawyers and firms, as well as to the indemnity program as a whole.
ALIA is working on getting more information about this matter. However, lawyers should be reminded that it is good practice to ensure valid receipts are obtained for the filing of each statement of claim and should consider how they may take steps to ensure they have not fallen victim to a similar fraud.
ALIA remains grateful to Alberta lawyers and firms for their continued reports of potentially fraudulent activities.