- Partner, Lerners LLP (2001 to present)
- Associate lawyer, Lerners LLP (1995-2001)
- Clerk to former Chief Justice of Canada, Antonio Lamer, Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa (1993-1994)
- Summer student, Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped (ARCH), Toronto (1993)
- Summer Student, Attorney General for Ontario, Constitutional Division, Toronto (1992)
- Summer Student, Blake, Cassels & Graydon, Toronto (1991)
- Research Assistant to professors at Queen’s University and Simon Fraser University (1986-1990)
- Elizabeth is a partner of Lerners LLP who has practiced civil litigation since being called to the bar in 1995. Her work in personal injury law focuses on claims arising out of sexual and physical abuse and the transmission of sexual diseases (STDs). Her experience also extends to discrimination and harassment claims, professional negligence, health and employment-related matters, and commercial disputes. She has acted in a number of significant cases, including various multi-party claims arising from historical childhood sexual abuse on behalf of plaintiff victims, including aboriginal claimants, a multi-party and complex class action aboriginal land claim in Lambton County, Ontario on behalf of the First Nation plaintiff, and the public inquiry into water safety in Walkerton, Ontario on behalf of the Medical Officer of Health.
- Elizabeth has experience litigating against and on behalf of individuals from all walks of life, corporations (large and small), insurers, governments, First Nations, public entities such as school boards and children’s aid societies, religious organizations and educational facilities. She has represented clients before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Supreme Court of Canada, commissions of inquiry, coroner’s inquests and various administrative tribunals, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
- Recognized as one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers for her commitment to advocating on behalf of victims of sexual abuse, Canadian Lawyer Magazine, 2014
- Recipient of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario President’s Award, June 2014
- Recipient of Lexpert Zenith Award for Leading Women Lawyers, 2013
- Frequently consulted by news media, including CBC News (Radio, Television and online), Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Hamilton’s CHCH Television News, The Motts radio show, Maclean’s Magazine, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
- Frequently consulted by law media, including Law Times and The Lawyers Weekly
- Elizabeth comments on the use of confidentiality agreements in sexual abuse cases (Read article)
- Interviewed for Chatelaine Magazine article “Judgment call”, October 1998 (Read article).
- While studying for her Bachelor of Laws degree at Osgoode Hall Law School, Elizabeth received numerous academic awards, including in 1993 the Bronze Medal and the J.S.D. Tory Research and Writing Award. Before attending law school, she was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship to complete post-graduate work in Development Studies in the United Kingdom (1987-1989), as well as numerous other scholarships and prizes through her undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Larman v Mount Sinai Hospital, 2014 ONCA 923, affirming 24 April 2014, Toronto CV-09-375484 (Ont S.C.J.) – appeal upholding summary judgment in medical negligence case
- Rosenthal v. Rosenthal, 2014 ONSC 317 – historical sexual abuse trial, served as amicus curiae (ie. “friend of the court”)
- Turner v. Ma, 2012 ONSC 71 – medical negligence trial involving physician and nursing care
- Pakarian v. Chen et al, 2012 HRTO 156 (and other related decisions) – human rights application involving numerous proceedings
- Bajouco v. McMaster, 2011 HRTO 569 (CanLII) – human rights application
- Urie v. Peterborough Regional Health Centre et al, 2010 ONSC 4226 – health-related litigation on behalf of multiple physicians
- Actions by multiple plaintiffs against the Anglican Church of Canada and Scouts Canada, between years 2005 to 2014 – sexual abuse litigation on behalf of numerous First Nation plaintiffs
- Kraus v. Estate of Kraus, 2008 CanLII 25057 (ON S.C.) – physical/sexual abuse litigation on behalf of plaintiff
- Kramarz v. KMH Cardiology & Diagnostic Centres,  O.J. No. 3258 (S.C.J.) – health-related litigation on behalf of physician
- N.G. v. Upper Canada College,  O.J. No. 1202 (C.A.) and  O.J. No. 5183 (S.C.J.) – sexual assault/abuse litigation on behalf of plaintiff
- K.L.B. v. British Columbia, 2003 SCC 51; E.D.G. v. Hammer, 2003 SCC 52; and, M.B. v. British Columbia, 2003 SCC 53 – abuse litigation on behalf of intervener, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
- Walkerton Inquiry (2000-2001) – public inquiry on behalf of Medical Officer of Health
- Drabinsky v. KPMG (1998-2003) – professional liability litigation on behalf of the accounting firm
- Chippewas of Sarnia Band v. AG of Canada et al. (various decisions at all levels of court, between 1996-2000) – aboriginal rights/class action litigation on behalf of the First Nation
- Stevens v. Canada (1998) – appeals in Federal Court of Appeal
- Sears Canada v. Davis Inquest (Coroner of) (1997), 102 O.A.C. 60 (Div. Ct.) – judicial review of coroner’s ruling
- B.(J.L.) v. Dr B. (E.J.) (1997), 13 C.P.C. (4th) 206 (Ont. Gen. Div) – sexual assault/abuse litigation on behalf of plaintiff
“I was a teenager from an immigrant family who lost my mother to cancer. Two years after my mother’s death, my father suffered a heart attack. It was at this vulnerable time in my life, in the mid-1970’s, that I was raped by a trusted professional in Toronto. At the time and for a very long time afterwards, I was devastated, confused, isolated and terribly ashamed and did not know where to turn. I told no one. It was many years later before I was strong enough to confront my abuser through a court action. In doing so, I learned that he had sexually assaulted another young woman. This was a watershed moment for me as it confirmed that all along I was telling the truth and I was not the only one.
Elizabeth partnered with me in dealing with my personal triumph. She is the epitome of what an attorney “should be”. She sets the bar high for the legal profession and client advocacy. Elizabeth helped bring closure to a chapter in my life that I thought would never have an ending. Without her encouragement, I would not have had the strength to pursue such a difficult task – this case brought me back to a time in my life that I wanted to forget. She helped me bring this case forward and fight for the justice I deserved. Elizabeth was a relentless advocate for my rights and helped restore the dignity that I once lost. With the closing of the case, I now feel whole again and at peace with myself and my past and I look forward to my future. Elizabeth brought light in my life that was so dark by having justice served to my abuser. I no longer feel like a victim.
Elizabeth was empathetic, sensitive, professional and above all genuine. She actively listened and showed me how much she cared by treating me like an individual rather than a case. She is approachable and non-judgmental, making it easy to confide in her. She has a very pleasing disposition that I know is deep-seated in her soul – she is a truly kind individual. Elizabeth was a godsend in my life. I hold her in the highest regard and will never forget all that she has given me.”
“A friend recommended Elizabeth Grace and Lerners to me in the spring of 2006 when she heard I was looking for a lawyer. The year before I had been sexually assaulted by the superintendent of the building where I lived, who used his keys to enter my apartment in the middle of the night and attack me with a knife. The criminal trial was coming up, and I wanted legal advice about how to proceed, knowing I may want to consider a civil suit, but not knowing much about what that would entail. My life had been drastically affected by this assault; I lost my housing, my job, dropped out of graduate school, could not sleep or find equivalent work, and felt socially, practically and emotionally disconnected from the life I used to have. I did not have many personal or financial resources and felt disempowered and very frightened about the future, which was a dark and exhausting unknown.
I met Elizabeth Grace and Gillian Hnatiw in person shortly after hearing of Lerners and from our first meeting on, they epitomized the best of professionalism, efficiency, as well as appropriate personal sensitivity. I was anxious and nervous about proceeding, and they explained each step fully and clearly, explaining the potential implications of each facet of my situation for the suit, as well as what was and was not under anyone’s control. They were sympathetic and realistic. We proceeded despite the fact that I was not able to offer a retainer. Based on my interest, at one sensitive point Gillian offered extremely helpful reading material above and beyond what would have been strictly required, which not only helped make the process more transparent to me, but contributed to an excellent and even empowering learning experience. This has given me a better understanding of the Canadian legal system and the importance of how it works in relation to social issues such as violence. My experience helped lessen a sense of an arbitrary, violent and frightening society for women, women of color, young women and truly others of all stripes; but it also opened my eyes even more to the critical importance of the kind of work Elizabeth and Gillian do.
Elizabeth and Gillian worked together highly efficiently to resolve my claim outside of court with a solid resolution that has helped me move forward with my life. Both the experience of going through the civil suit, and the material security of the resolution, have helped me slowly redevelop a sense of being able to take care of myself and pursue my personal and professional goals. Since then, I have married and we are expecting our first baby. We are looking forward to moving into our new house soon. With careful planning and budgeting I hope to return to school in a few years. I hope to live a life in which I can work towards fulfilling my professional potential. Each of these steps was made easier because of my experience with Lerners, the legal path they carefully mapped out with me, and their approach to their work.”
“I was raised in a traditional, Irish, Catholic family. During my teen years I was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by two highly respected and trusted priests who were also family friends. I was devastated by the priests’ abuse and the lack of intervention by adult witnesses.
I was violated physically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually for years.
The experience left me alienated from my family, friends and religious community. It continues to affect my health, relationships and employment opportunities. Elizabeth and her team were very sensitive to the long-term impacts of the abuse. I was consistently treated respectfully and professionally. Elizabeth ensured I was well informed of the challenges involved in civil litigation and ensured I was in control of decisions. I never felt pressured to undertake legal action. During the legal process, Elizabeth made every effort to reduce my stress. Inquiries received prompt, clear, professional responses. Actions that were promised were undertaken and reported on. Media inquiries were curtailed. Throughout the process, I found Elizabeth to be honest, conscientious, trustworthy and approachable. I felt supported, respected, informed and in control of decisions.
Most significant to me was that I felt valued by Elizabeth. For the first time, the trauma I suffered and its impacts on my life were understood, acknowledged and validated.
Undertaking civil litigation and facing the defendants was extremely difficult. Elizabeth was an excellent and true advocate.”
Anonymous Former Client
Publications (several cited by Canadian courts, including the Ontario and Alberta Courts of Appeal):
- Co-author, “School’s still out on vicarious liability”, The Lawyers Weekly, June 21, 2013 (Read article)
- “How distinct limitations apply to assault claims”, The Lawyers Weekly, February 4, 2011 (Read article)
- “Legal Redress Options Available to Abuse Victims”, Hospital News, October 2010 Read article)
- “Trend develops for higher sexual abuse non-pecuniary awards”, The Lawyers Weekly, February, 2010 (Read article)
- “Judging Cause and Effect: Challenges and Trends in Assessing Damages in Sexual Abuse Cases”, in Law Society of Upper Canada Special Lectures 2005: The Modern Law of Damages (Irwin Law, 2006)
- Co-author, “Pathways to Justice for Residential School Claimants: Is the Civil Justice System Working?”, ch. 5 in Aboriginal Rights Litigation, eds. J.E. Magnet and D.A. Dorey (Butterworths, 2003)
- Co-author, Civil Liability for Sexual Abuse and Violence in Canada (Butterworths, 2000) (this book has been quoted by courts across the country, including Ontario’s Court of Appeal)
- “Case Comment: R. v. Mills – Production of Health Records in Criminal Sexual Abuse Cases” (1999-2000) 1:3 Journal of Women’s Health and Law 279
- “Compelled Production from Third Parties of Health Records in Sexual Abuse Cases: Legal Principals and Procedures and Guidelines for Health Care Providers” (1999-00) 1:1 Journal of Women’s Health and Law 59
- Co-author, “Vesting Mothers with Power They Do Not Have: The Non-Offending Parent in Civil Sexual Assault Cases” (1994) 7:1 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 184
- “Professional Misconduct or Moral Pronouncement: A Study of ‘Contentious’ Teacher Behaviour in Quebec” (1993) 5:1 Education and Law Journal 99
- Speaker at The Osgoode Short Course in Mediation Advocacy on Advocacy Choices Assessed, Toronto, December 11, 2013
- Invited by Crown Law Office – Civil, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, to speak at the plenary session on ethics at its annual summer conference, where topic was “Ethical Challenges in Representing (and Opposing) Vulnerable Clients”, July 11, 2012, Hamilton, Ontario
- Regular speaker at The Canadian Institute’s semi-annual conferences on Institutional Liability for Sexual Assault, Abuse and Harassment, Toronto (1999 to 2010)
- Speaker at National Judicial Institute’s Supreme Court of British Columbia Education Seminar, on Equality Rights and Assessment of Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Victoria, May 22, 2008
- Speaker at Ontario Victim Services Secretariat, Crown Training Conference on Issues Related to Violence Against Women, “Redress for Abuse Victims Through the Civil Courts: Disclosure and Production Issues that Arise when there are Criminal Proceedings”, Toronto, March 6, 2008
- Speaker at Law Society of Upper Canada’s “Special Lectures 2005: The Modern Law of Damages”, Toronto, April 20-21, 2005
- Speaker at the Sex Crimes Crown School held every summer in London, Ontario (2002 to 2005)
- Delivered paper on “The Assertion of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the Chippewas of Sarnia Litigation”, Pacific Business & Law Institute, Vancouver (2001)
- Speaker at various other conferences relating to sexual abuse litigation and the compelled production of confidential third party (including medical) records in criminal and civil proceedings
Memberships and community work
- Invited member of working group that drafted the Guide for the Provision of Legal Services in Cases Involving Claims of Sexual Abuse. This Guide was approved by the Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee of the Law Society of Upper Canada and then formally adopted by Convocation on January 26, 2012. (Law Times article)
- Ontario Bar Association’s Working Group on McMurtry Victim Compensation Review, representing OBA’s Feminist Legal Analysis (FLAC) Section, 2008
- The Advocates’ Society
- The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
- Ontario Bar Association’s Health Law, Aboriginal Law and Feminist Legal Analysis Sections
- National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), including Board of Directors (1995 to 2000)
Complementary areas of practice
- Health Law
- Commercial Litigation
- Defence of not-for-profit organizations (insured and uninsured)
- Admitted to Ontario Bar (1995)
- Bachelor of Laws, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (1993)
- Master of Philosophy, University of Sussex, England (1989)
- Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Queen’s University (1987)
In her leisure time, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her young son and collecting contemporary Canadian art, canoeing, reading, theatre and film.