Alfred Kwinter of Singer Kwinter on the value of expertise

Alfred Kwinter is the founding partner of Singer Kwinter. He speaks in this video about his firm’s robust trial experience and expertise, and how their reputation as skilled litigants helps them win cases before they step foot in a courtroom.

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Greg: Hello. Welcome to Lexpert TV. I'm Greg Hudson. Today I'm speaking with Alf Kwinter, founding partner of Singer Kwinter. We'll be discussing trial expertise and why reputation matters when considering going to trial. Alf, thank you so much for joining us. 

Alfred: Well, thank you. Nice to see you. 

Greg: If going to trial, why choose Singer Kwinter? 

Alfred: Good question. The reason I believe both clients and lawyers to choose Singer Kwinter goes directly to our experience. We're a firm that's been around now about 50 years, and we've been chasing insurance companies and going after insurance companies for just about that amount of time. And we have the record to show how successful we've been at that. We haven't run every one of our cases, but I've got the bruises, but we've also got the victories to show. And I think the important point as to why choose Singer Kwinter is when insurance companies get a claim, and particularly a large claim, they first thing, one of the first things, if not the first thing they look at is who's on the other side that immediately advises them. A Will the case likely go to trial? B How well will the case be developed? C will the case be presented in a strong fashion? They know they know very well who the fighters are, who the try lawyers are, and who the can I say who the advertisers are. And there's a big difference between going to trial and advertise. And we offer our services, of course, to the public, but also to other law firms, other law firms, and come to us as requesting that we act as their counsel if the case is going to go to trial. So suddenly the insurance company hears or sees that Singer Kwinter is on the file. They often I'm not going to say this happens in every occasion, but very often they then take the case much more seriously to the counsel of the lawyer referring the case. They often request that we go if we go to trial, that they come along with us for the trial, which we're pleased that happened today. Number one, they get us to try the case. So they get, you know, very experienced counsel trying a case that otherwise may not be tried. And number B and B, they get to come along to trial and watch a case being tried and get the experience of doing a trial, which is very, very important, is to watch how it's done and, you know, participate. I always let lawyers who come, who retain me as counsel try to participate in the trial as much as they can, and they get that experience. So it changes the whole nature of the case. So why retain Singer Kwinter expertise, experience, results, reputation? We have them all and we've spent many years building it up. The judges know who we are, and I believe they respect us. I teach this topic at Osgoode Law School Trial practice and when you go to trial, you want to be well armed. And I think people who retain Singer Kwinter come to trial well armed. 

Greg: Make sense. How does experience lead to expertise? 

Alfred: Experience leads to expertise because you learn what things to do and what things not to do in a courtroom, and you find out what works and what doesn't work. And it's like almost anything else. The more you do it, the better you hopefully get at it. And I can tell you that when I look at my earlier trials and I look at the trials I've done lately, there's a very big difference because, you know, it's the old story. Practice does make perfect. You never get to be perfect. But being in front of a judge and being in front of a jury repeatedly shows you the long and the short of it is you start learning what works and what doesn't work, what's effective, what's not effective, not just watching your own cases, but watching other cases. And I always tell young lawyers, because I teach young lawyers, whenever if you can't get into court yourself, watch other experienced counsel, see what they do, watch their techniques. We always did. I had people we used to worship some older counsel and run after them. If they had a trial, we'd be down there in the front row. 

Greg: What areas of law do you have experience in going to trial? 

Alfred: Well, our two main areas. Well, first of all, we go after insurance companies. So when you go after insurance companies, you're either in a major property loss case like we sued insurance companies where they've denied big losses like our plaster case cluster and Wawanesa or Pereira in Hamilton Township, where our clients have had very large fire losses. And the insurance company, both of those cases raised arson defenses. In the Pereira case, they raised about seven other defenses. And so we've developed an expertise in how overcoming these types of defenses we've also gone to trial on. And by the way, in those two cases, we've we obtained punitive damages against an insurance company, which is very, very rare and very, very difficult. That's where the court actually punishes the insurance company for the way that they've treated the policyholder. That's a very rare phenomenon in Canada still, unfortunately. But we've done that on three occasions. I myself have done that on three occasions. Our firm has done that on four occasions. One other lawyer has done it one other time. The other area is personal injury. We've had some very large awards and very significant awards in the area of personal injury, and it's specifically chronic pain. I think. I believe our firm holds the record in Canada for the largest award for chronic pain. What what makes that type of case so difficult? Is it chronic pain usually involves invisible injuries. The person is suffering from horrible pain. You can't see the pain on an x ray or on an MRI or on a CT scan. So an orthopedic surgeon looking at somebody with chronic pain will say there's nothing orthopedically wrong with him. Well, so what? It means we'll send him to a dermatologist. And if they've got chronic pain, that's what I always say. And the insurance companies still do this. They bring out an orthopedic surgeon. They'll say, well, there's nothing orthopedically wrong with him. But the person is suffering horrific pain. But there are chronic pain specialists and our chronic pain doctors. And it's now recognized that chronic pain can be a debilitating condition, even though it's totally invisible. And we've developed a real expertise in that area as well. 

Greg: Is there areas that are more challenging than others when you are considering going to trial? 

Alfred: It depends on who your experts are, who the other chronic pain is one of the most challenging. The ORs are very often very low chronic pain. I've written about this. Chronic pain cases are extremely difficult. You have to make sure you have the right experts and in many cases also you have to look at who your plaintiff is because it all comes down to the plaintiff. You know, I always say lawyers don't win or lose cases. Clients win or lose cases. If you have a nice client, a sympathetic client and an honest client, I always teach when I'm teaching this, I say the biggest danger to an insurance company is an honest, nice, likable client. 

Greg: Are you saying that insurance companies aren't nice and likable? 

Alfred: I'm not sure if likable is quite so adored. But, you know, people always ask me, who are the best? Who are the worst insurance companies. So often it comes down to the person you're dealing with. It's the person at the other end of the line or the other end of the case, whether it's an adjuster or a lawyer. Certain companies have policies of being extremely tough, and we all know about that. But very often it comes down to personalities. But those cases listen. They fight. The biggest problem, I think, is that it's not a level playing field. You have an insurance company with unlimited resources fighting an individual who's had a major loss, whether it's a physical property loss or it's a terrible personal injury loss. You have to take on a behemoth of a defendant who can spend any amount of money to fight you. The only way to level that playing field is getting a really, really strong lawyer. And I always tell clients that that's where we try to even things out. It's still pretty tough, but we do it. And, you know, as long as the insurance company knows you've got a lawyer who will fight for you and who will take it to trial, that changes the whole ballgame in many cases. 

Greg: Thank you so much for speaking with us, Alf. 

Alfred: It's been a real pleasure. Thank you for allowing me to say this. 

Greg: This has been Greg Hudson and Lexpert TV. Have a great day.