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!



Wellness in the Workplace


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 and follow us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter@tla_bc for more information.

Business Man Relaxing On The Beach

Wellness Wednesday – October

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit” – Aristotle.


Last weekend, we held our 11th annual Women Lawyers Retreat at Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler.  It was a wonderful weekend of inspiration, collaboration and learning.

Despite what some people might think, the challenges women face, (especially in business and in law,) have certainly not disappeared… and it’s crucial that while we acknowledge how far we’ve come, we also recognize what we can do to continue to progress and create change.

As we continue to move forward and support one another, let’s remember that healthy habits are the foundation of growth.

Here’s a Wellness Wednesday pick from our publisher, Julia Chalifoux, from the Centre For Women in Business…

Five Healthy Habits for Women in Business

Take care of yourselves!




Help the BC Courthouse Library!

Old books

CLBC is taking a deep look at how they serve value to their membership and lawyers across the province. This is your chance to have a say! This exercise involves several interviews. To get good representation (year of call, region, etc.), they will be doing a quick (4-5 minutes) intake survey and then short-listing folks for a longer 1-hour Skype, phone or in-person interview. Thank you for your interest!

Please email Audrey Jun at  before August 9th, 2016 (next Tuesday!)

Commitment to Justice


Summer may be just around the corner, but our fiscal year is getting ready to wrap up!

Next week, the Staff, Board of Governors and Executive Committee will be heading to Osoyoos for our Strategic Planning Retreat to discuss the past, present and future of TLABC, and we are excited to keep moving forward.

We are so proud of the strength of our membership – as well as the successful work of our PAC – The Public Affairs Committee.  PAC is what fuels our advocacy work and allows us to stand up to threats to our justice system.

We couldn’t do the work we do without the generous support of our PAC donors – and today, we’d like to specifically acknowledge our high-level firm donors, who show an incredible “Commitment to Justice!”  Thank you.

Champions of Justice:



Would you like to learn more about PAC? Contact or call the TLABC office (604-682-5343) and find out how you can make a “Commitment to Justice!”

In Memorium… Nola Fowlds


(by longtime member and PAC donor, Ian Sisett)

Lost to us now , Nola Fowlds, a wonderful person and friend.

This lady deserves special recognition as the stabilizing organizational talent that guided a number of mad young trial lawyers during the first association building foundation years. Through 1979 to 1985, Nola worked diligently in supporting founding president Robert Mackay, followed by Arthur Vertlieb and then Ian Sisett, and each of the founding directors.. She was instrumental in matters of detail. She helped with formal meetings, constitutional wrangles, and new international seminars on trial practice. She was the calm face in the structuring of what was then regarded as a rather revolutionary group.

After a conservative beginning of career as secretary to the President of UBC, Nola sought a more adventurous  path of independence with executive involvement in a new approach to trial practice and education.

She provided unwavering support for a pioneer “legal rogues”. She gave up the security of a more established position for a new adventure. Without precedent or a clear roadmap, much was done by trial and error. The CBA was often particularly critical of any need for a new approach to sharing of advocacy skills. However, the new TLA vision was clearly shared by the courageous few; Instead of leaving the development of advocacy skills to the select few in larger firms who passed down their coveted knowledge to understudy disciples, on the British model, the TLA was formed on the principle that advocacy skills and knowledge should be shared and nurtured. Each counsel, the public, and the Courts would benefit by raising the level and availability  of skilled advocates. The new mantra was “each one help one”. Our American colleagues were the prominent leaders in setting new standards for public access and remedy in matters of civil law. They proved to be the best of professional friends. Under the banner of ATLA, (Association of Trial Lawyers of America), our American friends provided help at every turn. In fact, ATLA was the true and unselfish guiding model for our association. Before TLABC the focus based on the British model  was very much a lock step emphasis upon precedent rather than modernization and public access. The adopted British damage model was generally an adherence  to  “stiff upper lip”, with token  recognition of claims involving ” loss of enjoyment” and ” emotional loss”.  Many of the elder barristers lamented the down grading of standards with the discontinuance of the wearing of wigs in court.

Those unfamiliar with the stresses of the 1970’s and 1980’s may not appreciate the world of sacrifice endured by Nola Fowlds as she dared to take up a career in support a renegade association of non conforming trial advocates. Imagine the changes in practice and law that came with the new focus  and demands for recognition and protection of the value of individual rights, enjoyment, and life-style.  Imagine the backlash from the the more conservative members of Bench and Bar. This was a fledgling organization of radicals unpatriotic to precedent. Imagine the risk to pension and reputation faced by Nola in daring to associate with the “non establishment”. Alas that was then and this is now. How times have changed.

Yes, speaking on behalf of the founding members of this Association, Nola was  courageous and loyal, and through it all she was a warm heart with a kind word for all she met. She set a tone and standard for those who follow after in the Executive Secretariate.  We will not forget her smile; she was a true friend.

In true Loving Memory and Celebration of Nola.

– Ian R. Sisett

[For official obituary in the Vancouver Province, click here]

Calling all TLABC Members! “Raise the Bar!”

Slater Vecchio LLP has challenged us!!  One of our longstanding, dedicated firms and Diamond PAC contributors, Slater Vecchio, has brought to our attention, a wonderful cause that deserves some recognition and support.

TLABC Cares is proud to partner with the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, in an effort to develop a much-needed Burn Centre for burn victims and their families while in recovery, as well as a resource centre and retail space, which will aid in their upkeep and ongoing resources.

We ask you to please consider making a donation so the firefighters can reach their goal!!


Please read about the facility on the Slater Vecchio Blog HERE  and find more information on the Burn Fund Page HERE.

To date, they have raised over $10 Million dollars and can see the light at the end of the tunnel!  We challenge you, our members and friends to help them raise the last $2 Million which will secure the development of this very important facility!

Read more about the challenge from our friends over at Slater Vecchio…

Or click HERE to go directly to the donation site!



~ Your TLABC Cares Team


Back in Business…

FINALLY, we can say… Happy New Year!  The holiday season was wonderful and we are ready to face 2014 with a bunch of fresh changes!

We are (sort of) back in the swing of things here at TLABC, although the cold and flu season has hit us hard.  Despite our attempts to stay rested and healthy, the TLABC team has been dropping like flies.  Hopefully, we are through the worst of it now, as we prepare to dive into the new season.

As mentioned before the holidays, we have said goodbye to our longtime Membership Director, Sheila Schierbeck, and would like to introduce a new face: Amanda Huettner!  Amanda will be taking on the challenging and important role of Membership Director!

Amanda was “born and raised in Vancouver” and comes to us with a background in Not-for-Profit Management, as well as in Legal Research and Administration.  Her first official day was January 2nd, but she was given a glimpse into the TLABC antics in December, when she attended the December Medical Legal seminar, followed by the Holiday Bash… (and survived!)  Sooooo, we are anticipating a great fit for our crazy team!

We are SO excited to have her on board and look forward to introducing her to all of you over the next little while!  At TLABC, we pride ourselves on having a very special staff, with diverse backgrounds, skill-sets and personalities, so with any luck, she will fit right into our kooky crew… 

See you all soon…