L'art de plaider pour autrui

We learned the hard way that in Quebec, a non-represented litigant (non-member of any bar) can successfully represent a corporation before the courts in adversarial proceedings for civil claims over $85 000, absent any privity between non-represented litigant and corporation.

The corporation Mile End Records was successfully defended at trial and on appeal by a musician without any academic legal background or experience in the legal trade. The musician also represented an undeclared partnership formed by a group of DJs excluding himself, leading thus the courts to treat it as a legal person with limited liability.

In the course of proceedings, the defendant corporation was represented by 5 law firms over 5 years, the last of which had its representation withdrawn on the 1st day of trial, leaving the musician to plead in the defendant corporation's interest and act as a single witness for its cause.

The musician fought for the label tooth and nail, but lost the copyright infringement defense of the corporation. Nevertheless the musician persuaded the courts that:

(1) the corporation is the maker and owner of all recordings featuring the plaintiff’s vocal performance;

(2) some of the recordings were exempt from the Canadian Copyright Act, because they constituted intrusion upon the plaintiff’s seclusion;

(3) the corporation made little profit from the commercial exploitation of said recordings;

(4) the plaintiff's claim was exaggerated, because none of the vocal performers exploited by the defendant corporation were paid;

(5) the corporation acted in good faith with respect to the plaintiff, negating all attorney client fees and non-material damages flowing from infringement and abuse of process.

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On appeal, the musician appears yet for another corporation, the trustee Litwin Boyadjian. Since then, Mile End Records disappears as a respondent and is subsumed in the trustee.

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