rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Personal injury law firms move in after Air Canada crash landing

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Will C/flickr

At what point does lawyerly risk-taking in the public interest become crass ambulance chasing?

Before we consider today's case -- personal injury law firms hovering over last week's late-night crash landing of Air Canada Flight 624 -- let's layer in some context.

In 2013, the Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper won an $887-million class action lawsuit on behalf of disabled veterans and their families. For 30 years, successive federal governments had clawed back their benefits. The law firm took on Ottawa's bottomless pockets. Its lawyers rang up 8,500 potentially un-billable hours -- $3.2 million -- over six years to hold the government to account.

They won, and were rewarded for their effort.

But they could as easily have lost it all.

So too with Wagners, another Halifax law firm. It spent 16 years fighting provincial governments for compensation for hundreds of physically and sexually abused children at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. Besides providing "total free" legal services during those years, the firm spent $500,000 to pursue the case. Its lawyers eventually won $34 million in settlements for the victims and were awarded $5.78 million in legal fees.

Those cases would never have been heard -- and justice done for powerless victims -- if those law firms hadn't taken a risk.

How does that compare to Flight 624?

Well, Air Canada has already ponied up $5,000 to each of the 133 passengers for their inconvenience. Everyone understands that is both proactive PR and an opening gambit. The airline will inevitably pay more. How much is the question. The answer will be determined, in part, by the success of now competing law firms eager to represent the passengers.

"Eager" because this is a win-win. The airline will settle, likely out of court. The law firm will get a good payday.

But do such cases -- and settlements -- serve the public interest? Or simply make us a more needlessly litigious society?

Ray Wagner, whose Wagners law firm also wants to represent Flight 624 passengers, insists such lawsuits force public safety improvements.

I doubt that. Change will be spurred, as usual, by the results of the ongoing Transportation Safety Board investigation.

All the rest is about money.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Will C/flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.