American Museum of Tort Law: An Important Showcase – (PART 1)

Landmark Tort Cases Highlighted in Little Connecticut
Special Entry for the Verdict, edition #154 – FALL 2017 – By Bentley Doyle

Lawyers and laypeople north and south of the border, make sure to put Winsted, Connecticut on your list of places to visit when embarking on a vacation in New England, and specifically the American Museum of Tort Law. It is far more about people than the profession. As a matter of fact, people are the entire point. The museum would not have been constructed, let alone conceived of, if it weren’t for people and those who care about protecting them and preserving their right to justice.

It was the first stop on a seven-day swing through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. This was not incidental. We flew to Hartford, then by design drove our rental car north to Winsted, setting off a great journey that began with a look at the importance of law and the enormous ways it has shaped society.

On this day, our day, my brother Dave and I were fortunate to meet both the museum’s Director of Engagement, Joan Bowman, and the Executive Director, Richard Newman (a past-president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association). It was a thrill to chat with them and to find out we have some mutual acquaintances scattered throughout the United States, primarily due to our experiences as members and associates of the US-based National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Richard had recently been in Boston for AAJ’s annual general meeting and summer convention, an event I’ve participated at several times, mainly as a member of NATLE. But, even closer to home, i.e. to the American Museum of Tort Law, we have a connection in common to the museum’s creator, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, famed for being the author of Unsafe at Any Speed – an expose of the deadly dangers of the Corvair automobile, and internationally renowned for his life’s work of holding reckless corporations accountable for the products they create. He is also a former candidate for the US Presidency (and wouldn’t that be a great thing right now, a time when more than ever the US needs a good, smart and thoughtful person in the White House).

Nader is famous for what he has done throughout the past 50 years, but it was events 20 years ago that made things personal for me. We – the Trial Lawyers Association of BC – brought Mr. Nader to British Columbia three times due to a big battle in our province to oppose no-fault auto insurance. The first two occasions had him making public appearances and doing media interviews to counter the spin created by proponents of no-fault back in that day. Nader was then – as he has demonstrated many times before and since – simultaneously brilliant and selfless. He warned of the dehumanizing effects of no-fault insurance, a scheme he said treated people like property rather than as human beings.

I had the honour of driving Mr. Nader to and from events in and around Vancouver, including picking him up at the airport with a highly enthused team of TLABC reps along for the ride. I was terrified, of course. I mean, being a young-in at the wheel chauffeuring the sophisticated author of 1965’s Unsafe at Any Speed… well, it certainly wasn’t sans stress, albeit the experience was also exhilarating. The third time Nader came to Vancouver was to join us in celebrating the defeat of no-fault plans that had been threatening to upend the legal rights of individuals. That occasion was 20 years ago this August. I was honoured to drive him back to the airport, just him and I in the car, and I handed him a personal card of thanks when we parted. It is remarkable to be in the presence of a man with so much professional success to his name and to see him also be so humble. The Nader experience that year had another highlight. He had asked us, in advance of arriving, to set up a speaking engagement for him to make a presentation to the law students at the University of British Columbia. The school’s faculty of law was happy to oblige, of course. The room was packed, as you’d expect. A few of us from TLABC had the good fortune of being on hand for this special event. Nader’s passion for legal efforts conducted for public good was never more clear than on this day. He spoke with larger-than-life enthusiasm, wisdom, grace and humour. His prior efforts in sounding warnings against no-fault had been superb, no question, but this occasion was a convergence of everything he stood for and still stands for to this day. He had the time and the perfect place to talk about the importance of tort law. It was majestic. The law students were spellbound.

Today, with the American Museum of Tort Law that he created now two years old, Mr. Nader continues to lead America as a voice for safety, fairness and accountability. An American gem – the man and his museum.

For certain, the museum does justice to justice. If you get your chance, a couple hours there will do it justice. Lawyers, you will be even prouder of your noble profession. Laypeople, you will gain an understanding of why tort law and the principle of accountability are both so relevant to your lives.    (Stay tuned for PART 2)

More to come… stay tuned for our next post!

@tla_bc

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Wellness in the Workplace

#TLABCWellness

This fall, we will be talking about Mental Health in our 154th issue of the Verdict and teamed with this, we are launching a Wellness in the Workplace initiative at TLABC. We will begin this new initiative, by asking you… our members and our readers… How do you get your health on?

With the fall issue of the Verdict, we hope to provide some insight into how some of our TLABC members and staff are answering this question. Travel, theatre, un-anticipated illness and injury are all circumstances that have inspired some of our TLABC members and staff to think about their health (physical and mental) and wellness a little bit more critically. We’d like to encourage you to do the same.

While health and wellness can often be seen as an inside job, we cannot underestimate the impact we have on one another.

We, at TLABC, want to encourage our members to live well, so that we can also work well. We want to create environments where wellness in the workplace is encouraged, and health (both physical and mental) can be made a priority.

Remember that at TLABC we are a team and:

T – ogether
E- veryone
A  – chieves
M – ore

To get involved in this initiative, we encourage you to send us your photos, stories or favourite wellness posts and tag #TLABCwellness on Twitter and Instagram! Email megan@tlabc.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter@tla_bc for more information.

Business Man Relaxing On The Beach

Politics & Passion

[Excerpt from the Fall Issue of the TLABC Verdict] – out now! 

There’s a feeling in the air when summer fades and fall begins… that back-to-school ‘something’ that is crisp and busy and smells like falling leaves and hot apple pie.  Warm afternoons turn into cool, dark evenings and calendars fill up again with meetings, fundraising and campaign strategy.

In short, Fall hits – and it’s go-time.

Not that summer was all that quiet around here- we had multiple retreats and conferences going on for the TLABC Staff, the Board & Executive, and some of our campaign committees, (albeit with a few vacation days tacked on.)  We had staff in Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington, Squamish, the Yukon and Osoyoos, and we’ve been examining our goals and planning for the year ahead, but the work has been strategic and internal and now it’s time for action.

I was fortunate to attend a conference in LA this past July and was asked to present to the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) on behalf of TLABC.  The meetings were in conjunction with the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and were also book-ended by the GOP and Democratic National Conventions.  It was definitely a busy week in California, and there was an undeniable buzz that distinctly reminded me of my very first AAJ/NATLE trip – pre-US election, 4 years ago.  It was the same conference, but in Chicago – just before Obama’s second term. Now, let’s not get it twisted – this particular buzz was not exactly the same.  4 years ago, it felt exciting and hopeful and I was fascinated by the entire business… whereas this time, it simply seemed to stem from fear.

Fear is a powerful thing.  It’s palpable.  You could feel it in the media, as stories broke about even more racism, more crimes of hate and gender, and in the ongoing antics of that man-who-shall-not-be-named.  You could feel it in the public perception as they carefully went about their days, avoiding the conversation as often as possible, completely unsure of what is to come.  Everyone seemed to be reacting to a series of sometimes silent, but very tangible threats to their society, often with humour, but always in fear.

Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my time at TLABC, is that fear does not fuel change – only passion does.

At TLABC, through our PAC fund, we are constantly working against threats to our justice system, and our members remain diligent in monitoring what may be coming down the pipe.  We want to make change – to protect our citizens – to strive towards better access to justice.  These are no small things.  But success lies in our passion and subsequently, our action.

I’ve heard time after time, that TLABC was founded by a “small group of renegades” – lawyers who truly believed in justice and in the access of it.  These lawyers did not act out of fear, but of concern for their clients and a passion for their practice.  As time goes on and more battles arise to be fought, it is imperative that we remember to do the same.

There are other groups and organizations who are better suited to predictable action and reaction – TLABC is not one of them.  The work continues, not out of fear of the unknown, or of systematic dissolution, but because it is the right thing to do.

As an association, we will rise to the challenges ahead and show time and again our commitment to justice.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama

If you want to show your own “Passion And Commitment”then consider making a donation the TLABC PAC fund so that we can take action when the threats to our justice system arise.  Let’s not just sit back, in fear…

Let’s give them something to talk about.

Make a commitment to justice.

[PLEASE NOTE: This was originally published pre- US election]

To donate to the TLABC PAC Fun, please contact megan@tlabc.org

LawyersHelpingPeople

Hot Off The Press!

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Have you read our latest issue yet? Print and digital editions are now available. Here is a look at what is inside:

As Publisher of the Verdict, and on behalf of the magazine’s editorial board, it is with privilege that I present edition #146, themed: In Tribute. While bringing the Verdict to readers throughout the province of British Columbia is always an honour, this edition is distinct.

Early this summer, TLABC lost a terrific member, colleague and friend, Terry Napora. Beyond his professional designation, Terry was also a proud and dedicated father, husband and son, and a member of his local and legal community. The news of Terry’s sudden passing caused reason for pause and reflection. Many TLABC members and beyond were moved to impart their memories, and I am honoured to share them with you here in this edition.

In mid-July, the public was made aware of the extraordinary win against the government in J.P. v. Director of Child and Family and Community Services and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia. After more than 150 days of trial, the plaintiff’s counsel, Jack Hittrich, proved malfeasance. Jack’s herculean work on this case is truly an inspiration, a story I am proud to bring you.

NOTE: For information on this case, please visit:

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/15/12/2015BCSC1216.htm.

Julia Chalifoux, Publisher, TLABC

Julia