Almost completely devoted to insurance practice, the firm's lawyers
handled the then-typical full range of insurance cases including motor
vehicle personal injury, professional malpractice, commercial liability,
all types of property coverages, fidelity and surety and accident and health.
Involvement in such prominent cases as Buda v.
Pacific Ins Co. (successful
arson defence), Fenn v. Peterborough (negligence and contribution, in the
Supreme Court of Canada), Kolesar v. Jos. Brant Hospital (medical malpractice)
and CIBC v. Canada Life (S.C.C., bills of exchange, fidelity) cemented the
firm's credentials as a leading defence firm, despite its youth.
The 1980's - A Period of Change
In 1982, after John Fitzpatrick's appointment as a judge of the elite
Ontario High Court of Justice, the firm reconstituted itself when Harvey
Poss and Jamieson Halfnight became partners and formed Poss & Halfnight.
Continuing the same practice of advising and representing many of Canada's
largest insurers, the firm grew slowly by hiring and merger; of significance
was a 1986 merger with a firm headed up by the late Charles F. McKeon Q.C., a
well-known and respected Toronto insurance counsel. Upon Charles McKeon's
retirement in 1990, Harvey Poss (by now a Q.C.) resumed his role as senior
partner and firm mentor, a role which continued until his retirement in 2008.
Starting in the mid-1980's and under Jamieson Halfnight’s guidance,
the firm began to adopt technological tools to gain the benefits of modern,
efficient firm organization and litigation support, including early
institution of networked financial and database software to assist in firm
and file management. This started a tradition of technological innovation
in the small-firm context.
Typical of the leading cases handled by the firm in this era were
Motors v. Hartford (insurance case procedure),
All Nations Trading v.
Lumbermens (successful arson defence at trial and appeal),
Pelky v. Royal
Ins. (liability defence issues, including bad faith and liability of defence
counsel), and Keller v. Hartford, Reed
Stenhouse (insurer’s responsibility
for broker’s role).
The 1990's - A Platform for Future Growth
The ‘90's opened with a period of chaos in the insurance field due to the
Ontario government’s legislative changes to motor vehicle insurance.
Fortunately, Poss & Halfnight had, a few years earlier, started a shift in
the firm’s practice away from personal injury work and towards an even
heavier emphasis on commercial insurance work - primarily in the CGL,
property and fidelity fields. This shift, which continued through the 1990's,
had the effect of insulating the firm from the unsettling effects that washed
over much of the insurance bar in these years.
The ‘90's also saw increasing awareness of the significance of insurance
fraud and the need for active measures to combat it. This lead to the growth
of the firm’s role as specialized advisor to a number of companies on fraud
issues, including those of particular significance to the claims
investigators that insurers have turned to for the handling of these
problems. Arson advice and defences, litigating cases involving fraudulent
property claims and providing legal guidance during sensitive investigations
all became a central feature of our practice.
Always strong in CGL and commercial property insurance litigation, the
firm’s fidelity insurance practice grew to an equal status, as
Poss & Halfnight developed the reputation as leading counsel in this
highly specialized and complex area.
The firm’s focus and range through these years was best demonstrated by
its involvement in such prominent insurance cases as
Kingscourt v. General
Accident (early and successful bad faith defence),
Madison v. Plan Electric
(the leading case on builders’ risk coverage),
Canadian Newspapers v. Kansa
(issues of conduct in defence of a claim under liability coverage),
Company v. Gordon Capital ( the most important modern Canadian fidelity and
insurance contract case), Stelco v. Royal (leading case on property vs. boiler
and machinery insurance) and Alie v. Bertrand (the most significant CGL coverage
litigation in recent years).
The 2000’s – Specialized Focus
The Poss & Halfnight practice continued to grow and succeed, based principally on the firm’s commercial-lines practice. After a brief period as part of a large international law firm and then reorganization as a professional corporation, we re-established our independent, Canadian practice, with a renewed commitment to specialized insurance work. As Halfnight & McKinlay Professional Corporation, Jamieson Halfnight and Sheila McKinlay have continued developing the practice with increased emphasis on specialized insurance lines.
The advent of the active Ponzi-scheme era further spurred our fidelity insurance practice, to the point where it has become the largest single component of the firm’s caseload. Our credit union practice strengthened in the fidelity, D&O and E&O fields, including litigating the most significant series of cases in Canada against the deposit insurer. Broader activity in the CGL, D&O and professional liability fields has also increased.
Our long-time senior partner and counsel,
Harvey Poss, retired in 2008, to plaudits and a fond farewell from his partners, friends and colleagues across the Canadian insurance industry and the Ontario bar. Harvey’s wise guidance, strong legal talents and consistent professionalism have been and will be missed by all of us.
In this era, the firm has handled a series of high-level cases, consistent with its preeminent practice in the commercial and general insurance area:
Torchia v. Royal (successful arson defence);
Alavie v. Chubb (successful property insurance fraud defence);
WCB v. Lettroy (fidelity subrogation recovery action);
Royal Bank v. Société Générale (largest fidelity coverage case litigated in Canada);
Radvar v. AG (Canada) (successful bad-faith defence);
PCL v. Lumbermens and
PCL v. Encon (successful duty-to-defend CGL cases);
Iroquois Falls v. Co-operators (successful appeal and most significant fidelity coverage case);
Liquidator Portuguese Credit Union v. CUMIS and
Liquidator Ajax Autoworkers Credit Union v. CUMIS (significant and successful fidelity coverage and procedural disputes).
The Present and Future
In recent years,
cutting-edge issues such as financial
institution exposures, liability of insurers for
punitive damages based on bad faith, trigger of
CGL coverage and the scope of a liability
insurer’s duty to defend have moved to the fore
in the insurance industry and in the Halfnight &
McKinlay practice, continuing the firm’s
tradition of excelling at handling the issues of
prime concern to its clients.
The firm’s position as a leading commercial insurance defence firm has been
recognized annually through the selection of its senior partners for prestigous professional listings, such as
the Lexpert roster of the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada, (amongst a total of only
25 lawyers in the commercial insurance category) and The International Who’s Who of
Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers.
We are proud of our past tradition of integrity, quality work, cost effectiveness,
legal innovation and a highly professional - but still approachable - manner of dealing.
These are the foundation of our reputation and qualities that we are committed to
maintaining in the years ahead.
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