Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Dental Board – Dentists – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct / conduct unbecoming – Hearings – Conduct of hearings – Settlements – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Natural justice – Standard of review – Correctness
Chandrasegaram v. Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Board,  N.J. No. 294, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court – Trial Division, October 22, 2009, W.H. Goodridge J.
In 1997, the Appellant Dentist (the “Dentist”) was the subject of a complaint made to the Respondent Board (the “Board”). The complainant alleged that the Dentist engaged in professional misconduct for various reasons including the following: falsifying records, charging for services not performed, charging excessive fees, and engaging in unprofessional conduct.
The Board investigated the complaint and determined that the complaint warranted a hearing. The Dentist acknowledged, at a meeting with the Board, that several of the allegations were made out. This acknowledgment was part of a settlement between the parties and this settlement included agreed upon sanctions. The Dentist subsequently received the Order outlining the sanctions, he found that it included sanctions that were not the same as what he thought he had agreed to. The sanctions included a publication of the settlement as well as a fine and an order of costs. The Dentist alleges that he understood the settlement would be confidential and would be much less expensive than what was included in the order.
The Dentist sought an appeal to the court on the basis that he did not engage in professional misconduct, he received negligent legal advice to enter into the agreement when he was innocent, and he did not understand the nature of the settlement agreement. He argued that he was denied procedural fairness because of the latter two allegations.
The question before the court was one of natural justice and procedural fairness and, as such, the applicable standard of review was correctness.
The Court found that there was a breakdown of communication between the Dentist and his lawyers but the court did not infer that this was due to negligence by the lawyers. Due to the misunderstanding, the Dentist did not testify at the hearing because he did not understand that he was admitting guilt. The Dentist was therefore denied a full hearing and ended up with a settlement that was different from what he thought it was. This was a breach of natural justice and procedural fairness.
The order of the Board was quashed and a new hearing ordered. Since the error originated with the Dentist and his lawyers, the Dentist was ordered to pay the Board’s costs for the appeal.
This case was digested by Scott J. Marcinkow of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or review his biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.
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