A Vancouver lawyer has been disbarred from the Law Society of BC after he was found to have misappropriated more than $62,000 of a client’s trust funds in a personal injury case.
The decision, released this week, found that “being an experienced lawyer” Rene Joan Gantzert “should have known his conduct was wrong.”
“Wrongly taking clients’ money is the plainest form of betrayal of a client’s trust and is a complete erosion of the trust required for a functional solicitor-client relationship,” wrote the law society, citing a past hearing panel decision.
The case dates back to December 2018, when Gantzert represented a client after she got in a motor vehicle accident.
The client, who was described as “vulnerable,” had trusted Gantzert “for years” and relied on the lawyer to guide her through “the stress of litigation.”
After three surgeries, the client had been off work and on disability, while coping with anxiety.
In testimony to the panel, she said Gantzert misappropriated more than $62,000 from funds that were supposed to have been paid back to her employer and disability insurer.
That led to “immense stress and anxiety” as the client thought Gantzert had jeopardized her long-term disability payments and put her at risk of getting sued.
Beyond financially benefiting at the expense of his client, Gantzert later failed to participate in a law society investigation into the incident, and never acknowledged his misconduct in the case.
“Without question, it is important that the public have every confidence that a lawyer who receives settlement funds on a client’s behalf will hold the funds in trust and disburse them properly,” wrote the hearing panel.
The panel found Gantzert’s misappropriation of the more than $62,000 and failure to cooperate with the law society represented misconduct “at the most serious end of the spectrum” and calls for a “serious sanction” in order to “protect the public and maintain public confidence in the legal profession.”
Beyond being disbarred, Gantzert was ordered to pay $8,420 in costs related to the hearing.