Case #3 of 5: Top Contenders for Justice Award


Corporate America and irresponsible government officials consistently trash lawsuits as “frivolous” and trial lawyers as “greedy.” Why? Because lawsuits and trial lawyers hold them accountable when they abuse their power, break the law, and violate people’s rights.

Want proof? Just look at the five finalists for Public Justice’s 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. This coveted honor goes annually to the lawyers who won the verdict or settlement that made the biggest contribution to the public interest in the past year.

We have already posted the first two, here’s number three (the remaining cases will be listed in the next two weeks. )

Elwin v. NS Home for Colored Children & Province of Nova Scotia
The Halifax Home for Colored Children was founded in 1921 to care for African-Canadian orphans in the province. That is not what it did. Children there were subjected to unspeakable treatment – physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse – for nearly a century. Deanna Smith, placed there at age ten for four years by child welfare social services when her mother died, was just one example. Told she was “stupid,” “useless” and “would amount to nothing,” she was fondled by staff members and forced to perform in “sex shows” with other girls and boys there for the staff’s entertainment. Other children were shockingly mistreated in numerous different, hideous ways. The period of abuse spanned nearly 70 years.
Between 2000 and 2003, Wagners, a personal injury law firm in Halifax, Novia Scotia, filed 60 individual lawsuits on behalf of former residents. Even then, the provincial government, responsible for placing children in the home, refused to acknowledge the truth. So, in 2011, the Wagners team, led by Raymond F. Wagner and Michael Dull, filed the Elwin case, a class action. Ending a 14-year battle, the government and orphanage conceded what was taking place and entered into two different settlements totaling $34 million. To date, over 300 former residents have come forward to receive compensation, access to mental health care, and financial counseling. Nova Scotia’s Premier issued a formal apology and promised to “cast an unflinching eye on the past as we strive toward a better future.” The home is now a short-term residential facility providing proper care for children of all races.

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