Founded in 1988, the boutique firm Hill Sokalski Walsh Olson is noted for cultivating "a healthy mix of litigation files," according to peers. "They keep it interesting! They take on any files they want and work them with equal vigor. It could be a ‘bet-the farm’ case or it could be an employment case – either way they’ll take it on and deliver the goods." As of late, peers note that "they have been doing much more plaintiff work – shareholder disputes, proxy fights – and they’ve got about eight or nine cases in that area on the go right now."
Firm founder Dave Hill is uniformly praised by peers. "Dave is certainly one of the most active litigators in Manitoba, hands-down." Another peer elaborates, "I’ve had two cases in the last year in which I acted against Dave Hill. They were two pieces of commercial litigation, two credit unions, dealing with creditor’s rights, and Dave was a spirited fighter, as always." Managing partner Christian Monnin, revered as someone who "comes from judicial royalty and really knows the Winnipeg scene," has also been particularly active as of late. Monnin was retained by a global aerospace insurer to defend a European-based commercial aviation landing gear design company with respect to a non-fatal commercial airline accident, for which the plaintiff airline is seeking $7.5 million in damages. He also acted as lead counsel for the General Service Small/General Service Medium customer class in a multi-week hearing before the Manitoba Public Utilities Board for the first Cost of Service Review of Manitoba hydro in over 10 years, and is acting for acting for SNC-Lavalin as a plaintiff in a multimillion-dollar coverage claim as against its insurer with respect to an E&O claim regarding a major infrastructure project in Manitoba. Monnin also spent the full month of October 2017 in another Public Utilities Board Hearing, this time for the Manitoba Public Insurance (autopac) General Rate Application. Monnin acted for an intervener, Bike Winnipeg, which intervenes on road safety issues. Michael Weinstein attends to an increasingly construction-oriented practice and peers speculate that "you’re going to be seeing a lot more of him, because the construction practice is hot, and Michael is very good at it. He has a calm, even temper, which is what you need in that type of litigation, as it often involves mediations that didn’t quite work out."
The Winnipeg workshop of Pitblado houses 60 lawyers and offers a surprisingly diverse array of services for such a relatively modest-sized firm. However, it is noted that "Pitblado has a history of looking after the agriculture business in their part of the world." Steve Vincent is cheered as "one of the finest lawyers in Manitoba. He’s developed a top reputation in professional liability and is now a ‘lawyer’s lawyer,’ the one who gets the call when – imagine that – lawyers make mistakes! He also does a lot of work for the Law Society of Manitoba." Reinforcing this claim, Vincent acted for a local law firm and its partners in obtaining a stay of proceedings of an action commenced by a former partner seeking defense and indemnity from a claim against him for a penalty brought by Canada Revenue Agency. Vincent also acted for two plaintiffs claiming rectification of a share purchase agreement and interpretation of a second share purchase agreement and damages. Vincent, along with fellow partner Jeff Baigrie, obtained a judgment for in excess of $12 million CDN, although this judgment was overturned in late 2017. Baigrie is singled out for his broad range of commercial dispute expertise, which encompasses agriculture disputes, financial services, corporate oppression issues and product liability. Baigrie represented Caspian Construction as lead counsel regarding a construction project. He also provided lead counsel representing Tundra in an oil trespass/lease action. William Gardner in singled out for his acumen in labor and employment issues, as well as aboriginal law. "Bill Gardner is a great guy to talk to, a great guy to work with, who works hard and gets things done," offers a peer. Tracey Epp is also praised for her labor and employment skills. "Tracey does labor arbitrations, defends wrongful dismissal claims, and makes regular appearances before the Manitoba Labor Board." A client weighs in on Gardner’s and Epp’s behalf, claiming, "Bill and Tracey have both gone through labor unit law and were invaluable to me in their expertise."
Taylor McCaffrey is noted by peers for "having a healthy and interesting mix of some relatively unusual practice areas for Winnipeg," which include labor and employment, family law, intellectual property and even entertainment law. In the latter two practice John Myers is considered a standout. Myers acted on three separate applications for medical assistance in dying before the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, and eventually obtained the orders requested. He also represented a natural health products manufacturer in proceedings before the federal courts, obtaining an order quashing a decision of the Natural Health Products Directorate and an award of costs on a solicitor-and-client basis for over CAD$1.1 million. Myers also lays claim to recently negotiating settlements on behalf of the inventor of patented curling show technology.
Operating in Winnipeg for over 100 years, full-service shop Thompson Dorfman Sweatman today houses over 70 lawyers, with almost half of them devoted to litigation or dispute resolution. Peers routinely namecheck litigators from its roster as being some of the best in Manitoba. "They are still the second-largest firm in the city, and they have some great people," confirms one peer. One of the firm’s more high-profile appointments of the past year is arguably their its acting on behalf of the government of Manitoba against a group of tobacco companies to recover the estimated costs of smoking-related diseased on Canada’s prized government-subsidized health care. The firm is partnering with Bennett Jones and Siskinds for these matters. Keith LaBossiere is a respected labor and employment lawyer, about whom a client testifies, "Keith has acted on a number of high-profile compensation meetings. He’s just completed one for the police department. He’s acting for the province on judicial compensation. He’s really the go-to guy for public sector compensation litigation." Several peers also voice enthusiasm for Blair Graham, who is called "a very capable guy, strong in labor but also just a very good civil litigator," as well as Gordon McKinnon. "I like Gord McKinnon, he’s great with insurance and worker’s compensation." At the future star level, a peer notes, "I’m seeing more of Ross McFadyen, and people speak highly of him for commercial litigation." Jonathan Woolley is noted as "an impressive construction lawyer, with some top files." Sacha Paul is identified as someone who "does a lot of First Nations work and insurance defense work and is very good with all of it." Bob Adkins is lead counsel in representing Manitoba Hydro in the Court of Appeal of Manitoba with respect to an aboriginal law matter related to consultation and accommodation. Adkins is also lead counsel representing EOG Canada in the Court of Queen’s Bench in relation to an issue concerning jurisdiction over the development of a pipeline. He is also co-counsel with lead responsibility for specific aboriginal issues in a hearing before the Clean Environment Commission of Manitoba with respect to a major transmission line.
Founded in Manitoba more than a century ago, Fillmore Riley today stands as one of Winnipeg’s often-mentioned legal shops. Although a full-service firm, peers are quick to identify key litigators there as being some of the best in the province. "They have the largest insurance department between Ontario and Calgary," observes a peer. "If there is any insurance filing that comes through Manitoba, Fillmore Riley is going to have a piece of it." One devoted client weighs in, "Fillmore Riley have an excellent insurance litigation department with all levels of experience. They are considered by the insurance industry as the top firm for this type of litigation matter." Peers make sure to note, however, that "they are not just known for insurance. They have a broader repertoire."
In the firm’s famed insurance practice, Bernice Bowley is a noted standout. "Bernice is our counsel of choice," confirms a client. "She has a wide range of experience and has the ability to adapt to the many different situations in which we become involved." Bowley was successful in having a claim dismissed against her client, the volunteer coach of a 13-year-old boys hockey team. In March 2016, the trial judge agreed with Bowley’s submission that the plaintiff, a referee who had an accidental physical contact with a player and was injured, failed to meet the onus on him to establish liability. The plaintiff has appealed that decision to the Manitoba Court of Appeal and the appeal will be argued in 2017. In a case decided in February 2016, Wolinsky v. Assiniboine Credit Union, Stuart Blake and Andrew Loewen convinced the Manitoba Court of Appeal to overturn a decision granting the plaintiffs leave to commence an action against the defendant which was otherwise commenced out of time, on the basis that the lower court committed several errors. In April 2016, Loewen successfully argued that a contractor who insisted that its work was complete and who initially refused to return to the job site on that basis, had abandoned the project for the purposes of lien legislation, despite returning later, such that its builder’s lien was filed out of time. Richard Good was successful in overturning significant portions of a trial decision in a judgment issued by the Court of Appeal in June 2016. The issues related to fiduciary duty, contract law, and termination of a business relationship. The matter has been remitted back to trial to determine the parties’ damages. David Skwark was in the Court of Appeal in a case in which he represented the Law Society of Manitoba pursuing a lawyer and his wife for monies relating to improper conduct with the beneficiary of the residue of the clients’ estate being the Winnipeg Humane Society. In September 2016, the Court of Appeal affirmed the motion court judge’s dismissal of the lawyer’s summary judgment motion.