“Well, everybody comes to see us after they’ve had one of the worst days of their lives,” says James Cuming, a partner at Cuming & Gillespie, a winning firm from Calgary.
“Our focus is on recovery for the client, whether that be hiring a private occupational therapist to help them out or finding the proper treating physicians and specialists for them, as opposed to just trying to maximize their claim. We want them to get better,” he says.
Cuming has been with Cuming & Gillespie since 1995. The six-lawyer boutique firm deals with serious injury, medical negligence, class actions and other tort claims for plaintiffs. Cuming says the firm’s business model involves taking on more serious injuries and having fewer clients, as well as building a reputation through word of mouth rather than marketing.
“We’ve created a brand that’s been very successful for us on the basis of doing a good job and creating a good referral network, as opposed to just advertising on every bus stop and bus and billboard,” he says.
A serious injury will take years to fully recover from and often irreversibly alters a person’s life. Many in the personal injury bar have implemented into their operations an active involvement in the lives and recovery of their clients. Brenda Agnew was a client at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers PC after her son suffered a brain injury at birth resulting in severe cerebral palsy and hearing loss. The firm then hired her as a client liaison to work with families who’ve experienced birth trauma. The firm also employs a nurse, Dianne Henderson, formerly the executive director of the brain injury association of Niagara. Henderson acts as a medical consultant, as well as assisting with the clients’ aftercare and transition from the hospital to back home in the community.
“I think one thing that’s unique with us is we continue to want to be in touch with our client as a sort of expanding family of our firm,” says Charles Gluckstein, a partner at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, whose father Bernard started the firm in 1962 and has since passed on the reins to his son.
Selected by voters from across Canada as the top personal injury boutiques were Bergeron Clifford Personal Injury Lawyers, Bogoroch & Associates LLP, Cuming & Gillespie, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers PC, Howie Sacks & Henry LLP, McKiggan Hebert, Personal Injury Alliance Law (a confederacy of three firms: McLeish Orlando, Oatley Vigmond and Thomson Rogers), Singer Kwinter, Slater Vecchio LLP and Will Davidson LLP. The survey was a month long, with 2,524 participants, who were asked to rank their top-10 list from a long list of 90 firms produced by nominations from Canadian Lawyer readers. Points were awarded based on ranking with 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for second and decreasing at that rate down to 10th place.
Established in 1999, Toronto’s Bogoroch & Associates LLP specializes in motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, product liability and disability. Founding partner Richard Bogoroch says his firm seizes opportunities to take difficult cases to trial, to advance the law.
“We believe it’s important for us to try difficult and challenging cases no matter the cost, if the cases we try will help advance the law and by so doing provide greater access to justice,” Bogoroch says.
How we did it
Canadian Lawyer asked lawyers, in-house counsel and clients from across Canada to vote on the top personal injury boutiques and arbitration chambers. They were asked to rank their top firms from a preliminary list, with a chance to nominate a firm that was not included on the list. To be considered in the vote, firms were required to have at least 80 per cent of their business come from personal injury or arbitration. The final rankings were determined through a points system, in which firms were rewarded on a sliding scale for the number of first to 10th-place votes received. The quantitative results are combined with feedback from respected senior members of the bar and in-house counsel when applicable.
Exemplifying this, he says, was Surujdeo v. Melady, a medical negligence case at the Ontario Court of Appeal from 2017. Richard Bogoroch acted for the plaintiff, the husband of a 35-year-old woman named Rossana Surujdeo, who had died in a Brampton, Ont. hospital from heart inflammation.
A crucial aspect of the case was the law of causation, as the judge and jury had to determine not just that the treatment failed to meet the standard of care but that, but for that substandard treatment, Surujdeo would not have died. This is the “but for” test for establishing causation that comes from the Supreme Court of Canada case Clements v. Clements.
The Superior Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour, awarding $600,000 and $450,000 in costs. The defendants appealed on five grounds, one being that the jury instructions on causation were “unbalanced, incomplete and skewed” in the plaintiff’s favour. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Surujdeo and Bogoroch.
“What we’ve noticed over time is that, even when you’re successful in trial and we’ve been fortunate to have much success in front of juries, the Court of Appeal has historically taken a somewhat narrow view of causation, which has been difficult for plaintiffs to overcome,” says Bogoroch partner Heidi Brown. “And we take that concept seriously and the cases that we take to trial we’re trying to advance the law
While personal injury lawyers can have an influence on how case law develops their practice area, legislative changes made by politicians still have a significant impact on their work. In Alberta, the cap on payouts for minor injury — either a sprain, strain or whiplash injury — was raised to $5,202 from $5,080 s of Jan. 1, but with an election set for later this year, Cuming isn’t sure what a possible new government may have in store for injured plaintiffs.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is reviewing the province’s rules under the Negligence Act for joint and several liability — a principle by which, if a person is injured because of multiple defendants and one of those defendants cannot pay, if the remaining defendant is even one-per-cent liable for the injury, they pay the whole judgment. Ford is reviewing the effect the rule has on municipalities who can be liable for injuries on public infrastructure. Ford’s interest is in what it costs for municipalities to insure against this risk and whether he should alleviate the financial burden.
“Given that he used to represent Etobicoke, this appears to be a personal issue for him,” Gluckstein says. “It is likely that the rates will not lower even if changes were made as the payouts are limited to a handful of cases per year for very badly injured individuals.”
Felt widely across practice areas are court delays. Bogoroch and Brown say delays in the system are plaguing the personal injury bar, putting plaintiffs on hold for too long, which is of concern for motor vehicle cases because the plaintiff can only recover 70 per cent income lost before the trial, Brown says.
“If there were a way to speed up the system so that instead of waiting two years for trial you waited only a year, more cases would settle, and I think it would be a much better and fairer system for everyone concerned,” Bogoroch says.
Top 10 Personal Injury Boutiques
Bergeron Clifford LLP
Kingston, Ottawa, Whitby, Perth, Carleton Place
Founding partners Edward Bergeron and Chris Clifford have worked together representing injured clients since 1999. Both are certified litigation specialists. With a team of seasoned trial lawyers, the 31-person law firm works in 30 major towns and cities across Eastern Ontario. The firm only practises injury law and never works for insurance companies. Bergeron Clifford works with a variety of injuries, many of which are catastrophic, including brain and spinal cord injuries. The firm’s practice areas include brain injuries, slip/trip and falls, spinal cord injuries, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents and insurance denials.
“When the likes of shady firms are seen plastered on buses across this country; when firms offer a quick buck for an injury or when the profession can be seen as a bunch of ‘ambulance chasers,’ few firms can measure up to the standard needed to exemplify our industry. More than ever, firms that act as a beacon of high standard for injury law need to be highlighted and Bergeron Clifford do just this for Eastern Ontario.”
Bogoroch & Associates LLP
Since being established in 1999, the firm has represented plaintiffs and their families throughout Ontario in motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, product liability and disability litigation. Richard Bogoroch, the firm’s founder, has more than 35 years of experience and both he and partner, Heidi Brown, are certified specialists in civil litigation. The firm today features four partners and seven associates and is dedicated to providing access to justice to its diverse client base. Most recently, the firm acted in two important cases, Surujdeo v. Melady and Stirrett v. Cheema, which are shaping the future of causation and breach of fiduciary duty in the context of medical malpractice.
“Efficient, polite, understanding, hard-working.”
Cuming & Gillespie
Under the leadership of James Cuming and Craig Gillespie, Cuming & Gillespie has proven itself as a premier boutique firm in western Canada, specializing in catastrophic personal injury, medical malpractice and class action claims. The six-lawyer firm acted as counsel in Alberta’s first certified class action lawsuit. The firm supports various charitable organizations, including the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Canadian Spinal Research, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society and Kids Sport. They are also the founding donor of the Foothills Hospital Brain Injury Patient Experience Program.
“The lawyers that work there are courteous, professional and helpful.”
Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers
Bernard Gluckstein founded the Gluckstein Lawyers firm in 1962, with his son Charles Gluckstein — a past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association — joining as a partner in 1999. This firm specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice litigation, having tried cases at every level including the Supreme Court of Canada. Along with the commitment to full-circle care for its clients, Gluckstein Lawyers is active in the community through charitable work, particularly in partnering with brain and spinal cord injury organizations, including ParaSport Ontario.
“Gluckstein Lawyers is not only the best personal injury law firm because of their professional expertise and proven performance but the staff really cares about their clients and serving the community.”
Howie Sacks and Henry LLP
Toronto, Bobcaygeon, Brampton, Georgetown, Kitchener, Markham, Oakville
Formed in 2000 by Jim Howie, Neil Sacks and Mike Henry, the firm has grown to 18 lawyers with over 80 staff. Headquartered in Toronto the firm represents accident victims and their families in all areas of personal injury including motor vehicle accidents, accident benefit claims, medical malpractice and long-term disability claims. The firm was recently appointed as co-counsel with the government of British Columbia in a class action involving the widespread use of opioid medications and is currently representing members of the military for side effects related to the forced use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine. It also represents those adversely impacted by defective medical devices such as Hernia Mesh and Essure Birth Control.
“They treat people well; they are very knowledgeable.”
McKiggan Hebert Lawyers
McKiggan Hebert Lawyers was established in 2013 by John McKiggan and Brian Hebert to provide peace of mind to victims of serious personal injury or loss and their families. With a focus on catastrophic personal injury, sexual abuse, medical malpractice and birth injury cases, the firm has had notable success including the largest personal injury settlement in Nova Scotia — a birth trauma case — and the landmark LGBTQ Purge class action against the federal government.
“Small, personable, hands on, cut to the chase, get ’er done attitude.”
PIA LAW (McLeish Orlando LLP – Thomson Rogers – Oatley Vigmond Personal Injury Lawyers LLP)
McLeish Orlando LLP
Toronto, Barrie, Hamilton, Kitchener, St. Catharines
McLeish Orlando LLP, a critical injury boutique firm, was established in 1999 by John McLeish and Dale Orlando. Soon after, they were joined by fellow principal partner Patrick Brown. All three are past presidents of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association and certified specialists in civil litigation. Over the years, the partnership has expanded through the addition of three lawyers: Salvatore Shaw, Rikin Morzaria and Joseph Cescon. Lawyers at the firm have contributed to the publication of six books used by other lawyers across the province. The lawyers at McLeish Orlando work to ensure that their clients have access to the best rehabilitation and the highest level of legal expertise.
“Outstanding reputation and advocate for the clients.”
Thomson Rogers is one of the largest civil litigation firms in Toronto. Since 1936, the firm has evolved into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Ontario and has been voted a top personal injury firm in every year the poll has been conducted. Their team of litigators have one simple goal: to secure the best result for their clients. The firm’s personal injury practice spans brain injury, spinal cord injury, severe orthopaedic injuries, injuries of children and wrongful death.
“Thomson Rogers is a leader in its field.”
Oatley Vigmond Personal Injury Lawyers LLP
Toronto, North York, Barrie, Hamilton, Sudbury, North Bay
Oatley Vigmond was founded by Roger Oatley and Jim Vigmond in 2002. Today, the firm features seven partners, five of whom are certified specialists in civil litigation and are recognized as leaders in the field of personal injury law. Oatley Vigmond’s accident benefits specialists (former insurance adjusters) exemplify the firm’s commitment to client service by managing their statutory accident benefits and arranging a first-rate rehabilitation team, permitting clients to focus on recovery. The firm is known to advocate for clients at all levels of the judicial system and has a long-standing history of going to court with tough cases and winning.
“Years of experience. Great staff.”
Singer Kwinter Personal Injury Lawyers
Singer Kwinter was co-founded in 1974 by Alf Kwinter and the late Morris Singer. The firm of seven lawyers has appeared as counsel at all court levels, including the Supreme Court of Canada, where it acted on behalf of the successful plaintiff in the landmark decision Oldfield v. Transamerica Life Insurance Co. of Canada, which established the rights of innocent beneficiaries under life insurance policies. Singer Kwinter is the only firm in Canada to obtain four punitive damage awards against insurers as well as obtaining record punitive damage awards.
Slater Vecchio LLP
Slater Vecchio is a leading firm in British Columbia for those who have suffered complex or catastrophic injuries. The 160-member team of lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants and case managers helps people navigate the complex legal and medical systems to get the best possible care. Led by Michael Slater, Anthony Vecchio, James Buckley, James Richards, Aimee King, Saro Turner and Nicole Kelly, the firm focuses on its clients’ unique rehabilitation needs. Working with some of the top medical professionals in the business enables the firm to make a significant and positive difference in its clients’ lives. This helps restore each individual to the best version of themselves following a traumatic event.
“Strong client advocacy; commitment; strong communicators; accessible.”
Will Davidson LLP
Toronto, Bowmanville, Midland, Huntsville, Oakville, Lindsay
Will Davidson LLP celebrates 95 years at the forefront of the legal profession in Ontario. With personal injury litigators operating through offices in Toronto, Oakville, Huntsville, Bowmanville and Midland, the firm has done counsel work for lawyers throughout Ontario including numerous trials and appeals all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Will Davidson has a diverse practice and has represented clients across Ontario in product liability claims, commercial litigation and insurance claims. The firm is proud of its community involvement and its leadership roles in organizations dedicated to the advancement of access to justice.
“They’re all across Ontario. Exceptional staff/lawyers. Real personable people, much more than other law firms.”