- 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)
- Partner -
“ Demanding accountability from a sexual offender and the institution that gave the offender power and authority over vulnerable persons is one of the most courageous things a survivor of sexual abuse can do. Giving a legal voice to that demand is not only a privilege for a lawyer, but also presents unique challenges requiring sensitivity and the best legal skills a lawyer can offer. ”
- 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 assault and sexual abuse, as well as physical abuse. 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 First Nation claimants, a multi-party and complex class action Aboriginal land and treaty rights 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.
- Elizabeth has experience with investigations into sexual abuse and harassment allegations, and has served as an independent, third party investigator.
- Selected by her peers for inclusion in Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory for Medical Negligence (2021-2022)
- Selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in Canada for Personal Injury Litigation (2016-2022)
- 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), Maclean’s Magazine, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, National Post, Hamilton’s CHCH Television News, The Motts radio show, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
- Frequently consulted by law media, including: Law Times, The Lawyers Weekly, The Lawyer’s Daily and Canadian Lawyer Magazine
- Interviewed for Chatelaine Magazine article “Judgment call”, October 1998
- 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.
- C.O. v. Williamson, 2020 ONSC 6793 – secured Mareva injunction against judgment debtor defendant on behalf of plaintiff
- C.O. v. Williamson and Trillium Lakelands District School Board, 2020 ONSC 3874 (CanLII) – historical sexual abuse trial on behalf of plaintiff against school board based on its high school music teacher’s sexual assaults and its inadequate post-assault response to disclosure
- Rosenthal v. Rosenthal, 2014 ONSC 317 – historical sexual abuse trial, served as amicus curiae (ie. “friend of the court”)
- 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
- N.G. v. Upper Canada College,  O.J. No. 1202 (C.A.) and  O.J. No. 5183 (S.C.J.) – sexual assault/abuse litigation against private school 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 – sexual and physical abuse litigation on behalf of intervener, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Publications (several cited by Canadian courts, including the Ontario and Alberta Courts of Appeal):
- “Criminal v. Civil: How the Criminal Process Can Impact a Parallel Civil Process”, For the Defence, Criminal Lawyers Association Newsletter, Vol. 38, No. 2 – July 2017, 18-24.
- Author, “Sexual Abuse & Limitation Periods in Ontario: Soon a Thing of the Past?”, The Litigator, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, September 2015
- Co-author, “School’s still out on vicarious liability”, The Lawyers Weekly, June 21, 2013
- “How distinct limitations apply to assault claims”, The Lawyers Weekly, February 4, 2011
- “Legal Redress Options Available to Abuse Victims”, Hospital News, October 2010
- “Trend develops for higher sexual abuse non-pecuniary awards”, The Lawyers Weekly, February, 2010
- “Judging Cause and Effect: Challenges and Trends in Assessing Damages in Sexual Abuse Cases”, in Law Society of Ontario 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
- Speaker “What’s New and Happening Back East” and Q & A Panellist, “Sexual Violence (Civil) Conference 2022, British Columbia Continuing Legal Education, March 30, 2022
- Speaker on panel “Institutional Liability: Where We Are and What’s Ahead”, at Civil Sexual Assault: Critical and Emerging Issues, Osgoode Professional Development Program, February 25, 2021 (virtual)
- Speaker, “Civil Sexual Assault Claims – Developing a Robust, Efficient and Fair Claims Process”, 25th Annual Provincial/Municipal Government Liability Conference, The Canadian Institute, April 2, 2019
- Co-Chair of Current and Emerging Issues in Civil Sexual Assault, Osgoode Professional Development Program, February 26, 2018
- Speaker on “Civil Liability for Sexual Abuse: A Means of Achieving Accountability in the Campus Context?”, National Conference on Campus Sexual Assault for Higher Education Administrators, Ryley Conferences Group, Toronto, December 8, 2017
- Invited panellist for #AfterMeToo Civil Roundtable, filmed at Globe and Mail Toronto head office, December 5, 2017
- Speaker at The Osgoode Short Course in Mediation Advocacy on Advocacy Choices Assessed, Toronto, December 2013, September 2014 and February 2017
- Speaker on Plenary Panel – “More Help and Better Supports for Survivors in the Community”, It’s Never Okay, 2015 Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment, Toronto, November 19, 2015
- Co-Presenter of “Returning Ontario to the Forefront of the Effort to Eradicate Sexual Violence and Harassment” submission to Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment, Legislative Assembly of Ontario, First Session, 41st Parliament, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), No. SV-15 (13 May 2015) at SV-33
- Presenter on limitation periods in sexual abuse at The Osgoode Civil Sexual Assault Webinar Series: “The Guide to Bringing/Defending Civil Sexual Assault Claims” on February 10, 2015
- 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 Ontario’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)
- Speaker at Health Law Forum/HIROC’s “Meeting the Standard of Care: Challenging Issues in Patient Safety” conference, where delivered paper “Vicarious Liability for Intentional Wrongdoing in the Health Care Context”, Toronto, May 29, 2001
- 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
- Speaker at Canadian Psychoanalytic Society & The International Psychoanalytic Association’s “Confidentiality & Society: Psychotherapy, Ethics and the Law” conference, where delivered paper “Compelled Production of Health Records in Civil and Criminal Sexual Assault Proceedings”, Montreal, October 13-15, 2000
- Speaker at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Continuing Legal Education and Professional Development Program’s “Confidentiality and Access to Health Care Information” conference, where delivered paper “Access to Victims’ Records in Sexual Assault Proceedings”, Toronto, September 23-24, 1999
Memberships and Community Work
- Law Commission of Ontario, Board of Governors, Member-at-large, and Project Committee Member, June 1, 2018 to May 30, 2021 appointment term
- Member of Advisory Committee to CCLISAR (Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response), effective January 2020 – non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to improving understanding and responses to sexualized violence
- Member of Cross-Canada Legal Advisory Team to “Rosa”, effective January 2020 – digital platform for those experiencing workplace sexual harassment
- 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 Ontario 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 as a member of Board of Directors (1995 to 2000)
Complementary Areas of Practice
- Health Law
- Professional Regulation
- 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 family and collecting contemporary Canadian art, canoeing, reading, music and travel.
“There are few words that can express my gratitude to Elizabeth Grace, Anna Matas, Kristen and all other Lerners Associates involved in my cases. With honesty, compassion, and years of experience they gave me a glimmer of hope to continue my fight for justice when I had little steam left.
With their years of experience and professionalism they had access to the resources I needed to push forward to succeed. Even though there was a settlement, there is no monetary value equivalent to having someone fight so passionately for justice.
I can’t thank you all enough for the chance to move on with a sense of justice this many years later. It is because of Lerners that I can achieve my dream of becoming a success story as well as a survivor.
– Anonymous Success Story
“I’m writing to say thank you for representing me in my legal case over the last two years.
During the summer I went on an amazing two month long trip, and I’m excited to report I’ve just begun back at school full time!
Not only did the outcome of the case remove some of the financial barriers that made it challenging for me to move on with my life after being assaulted, but more importantly, the entire process allowed me to confront and move past the experience emotionally. While it will always remain something that has shaped me and that I will never forget, having been assaulted is no longer something that weighs on me daily.
Thank you both for your compassion and for treating the case as a collaborative effort in which I was respected, listened to, and regarded as equal. I always felt comfortable airing my concerns and asking questions when I needed guidance. I truly appreciate your efforts to make something that could have been incredibly overwhelming and scary feel manageable.
I feel very lucky to have had you both on my side.”
– Anonymous Former Client
“Through initial consultation, Ms. Elizabeth Grace and Mr. David Litwin immediately recognized that I needed help in more ways than one. I came to Lerners with a challenging case that was riddled with what could be considered by some as “grey areas” in a justice system that aims to define as black or white. As law was not something I had any previous experience with, I had also unknowingly taken a myriad of initial missteps. Despite these concerns, within our first meet I felt that I could trust both Ms. Grace and Mr. Litwin. They went out of their way to ensure I was aware of all options including the potential roadblocks and the possible outcomes. They were understanding but direct, compassionate but firm. Though in a position that requires them to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions, never once did I feel judged while in their presence. Ms. Grace and Mr. Litwin successfully navigated a path that has granted me both acknowledgement as well as personal closure. I would recommend Elizabeth Grace and David Litwin to anyone seeking honest, experienced, intelligent legal counsel. I am extremely fortunate to have been lead to Ms. Grace and Mr. Litwin at the beginning of this process. Throughout the entire experience, they eased the many burdens associated with my case immensely. I could rest easy throughout, knowing I was in good hands, and can rest easier still now that we have seen the process come to an end. In the short months that I have known Ms. Grace and Mr. Litwin they have more than earned my respect and I look forward to following the success of their careers.”
“During the year of 2012, after more than 20 years of shame, embarrassment and confusion, I came forward and confessed to my mother that a trusted male from a large children’s organization had sexually abused me from the ages of 11-14. She was devastated. We went to the police and he was charged and convicted of the charges. Two other boys came forward as well. After hearing the judge’s decision, I realized that if the organization had done its job properly, I would never have had any contact with this person.
This is where Elizabeth and her phenomenal staff came into my life. I reached out to Lerners and was put in contact with Elizabeth Grace. From start to finish, Elizabeth and all her staff treated me with the utmost respect through integrity, understanding, sympathy and compassion. Elizabeth not only helped me with my case but helped me find professional help which I am currently seeking out and will continue to use in the future to repair the damage and devastation this crime has done to me and my family.
During the whole process, Elizabeth made sure my family and I were okay emotionally, well-informed and, most importantly, prepared for the events and demands which a civil lawsuit presents.
I thank Elizabeth and her staff for everything. It was truly amazing to work with her under the circumstances. She has helped and impacted my life in a tremendous way. Thank you!”
“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.”