"When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar, or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." - Cynthia Ozick
These words ring ever so true now as we grapple with the reality of COVID-19, and have been aptly reminded of the thing we often take for granted most – our health.
There is no greater form of trust than the one we place in medical practitioners, but there is also no greater responsibility than to care for the health of others. Unfortunately, medical malpractice is a growing area of Personal Injury law with startling growth rates.
According to the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), from 2006-2015 there has been an increase in medical-legal activity, with an 85% and 93% rise in hospital and college matters, respectively. (Source: CMPA Annual Report 2015)
Unfortunately, to some, these are more than just numbers, they’re lived experiences.
Meet Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison at Gluckstein Lawyers and the Co-Host of our latest feature: Butter Torts.
Her story begins with her son Maclain who has severe Cerebral Palsy and profound hearing loss as a result of a condition known as Kernicterus, a brain injury that results from untreated jaundice.
When a baby is born a mother often dreams and plans ahead to capture every “first”, but not to bear the weight of the justice system on behalf of her newborn child.
As a young mother, Brenda was suddenly thrust into a medical malpractice case related to neonatal birth trauma. An experience no mother should ever have to endure.
Brenda was on the frontlines for her son and family, taking every blow those standing in her way would throw, whether it was an insurance company or a hospital. She soon realized she couldn’t do it alone. She then enlisted the help of Gluckstein Lawyers, a Personal Injury law firm in Toronto, Ontario. It took a grueling 8 years but eventually, her case was settled in pre-trial.
To put into perspective how truly rare this outcome is; from 2013-2017, 36.7% of cases filed with the CMPA were settled, and only 1.6% of cases had trial judgments in favour of the patient. (Source: CBC News)
All in all, the experience proved to be an uphill battle that only a mother's love could justify.
“I was fired up. As much as I thought I was ready for it, I was not prepared for the amount of scrutiny that comes with a medical malpractice case like mine. I was reading with highlighters everything my lawyers sent me and asking questions constantly.”
Bearing the rare experience of having been a client has provided Brenda a unique perspective on how she views the practice of law, in turn impacting the way she approaches her current role as Client Liaison,
“Being a client is such a raw, emotional, complicated, and long process. When you start reading about your family in the paper and see the scrutiny from everywhere, it affects you. Lawyers are focused on something else, as they should be, I didn’t need them to hold my hand, but every client is different. There are different touchpoints in the process that are hard for clients to navigate.”
Despite the many pitfalls of the justice system it is always growing and evolving, now more than ever as COVID-19 is stubbornly giving it a nudge.
On the same note, the need for legal innovation and technology has risen to a level as never before.
Therefore, with Brenda's unique perspective, how could the justice system improve in this new era of opportunity?
(Brenda throws her head back in “overwhelment”)
“The justice system is not set up to help or get a resolution, especially when the client is seeking closure. One side often has greater resources than the other, and the process is long and antiquated. It should not take 10 years for a case to get resolved. There have to be better ways to move cases through.”
Brenda’s experience guides her daily, especially in the initiatives she undertakes, such as her Personal Injury legal podcast Butter Torts.
(Please visit: Butter Torts: A Truly Canadian Legal Podcast)
“I want to get rid of the stigma that is present when someone thinks of calling a lawyer for help. I want people to not be afraid to reach out. Through Butter Torts we hope to provide a better insight of what’s involved in the legal process because at the end of the day someone has been hurt.”
Brenda is also an advocate for better systems and programs for children with special needs. She has been appointed to the Community Council for the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine for a 3-year term and is an active member for volunteer organizations such as CP-Net, CHILD-BRIGHT Citizen Engagement Committee, and the Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee.
You can connect with Brenda on:
Listen to episodes of Butter Torts at: