Eric Williams is devoted to the law. He founded the firm in 1978 and has achieved recognition for his work by being selected and named by his peers as one of the best lawyers in Canada. He has represented clients in all areas of civil and corporate litigation—at every level of Court in Canada—acting as counsel in more than 185 civil court trials and appeals to date.
Eric captured national media attention in 2007 in his most publicly known decision, from the Supreme Court of Canada. Eric successfully defended two homeowners and their insurance company establishing that they were not liable as social hosts, having acted as counsel at trial, at the Court of Appeal and at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Drawn to the challenge of complex cases, Eric has a remarkable ability to articulate the connection between the facts and the law. His approach is characterized by diligence, hard work, and a sense of humour. His first priority is always to establish a meaningful connection with his clients, helping them understand the possible risks and gains associated with the civil litigation process. He is regularly referred litigation by other lawyers around the province, particularly in complex matters or on appeal.
Eric does not shy away from risk if he believes that a client has a good legal case. A recent example includes representing a plaintiff for many years against a large financial institution. Eric took the case knowing that he would only get paid if they won. They won at trial, and the client received a range of damages, including the second-highest punitive damages award in commercial cases in Canada. Eric went on to successfully defend the trial Judgment at the Court of Appeal.
Since 2006, Eric has been voted by his peers as one of “Canada’s Best Lawyers” in the categories of Appellate Practice, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Corporate and Commercial Litigation, and Insurance Law. Outside of Canada, his accomplishments as an advocate are also recognized, as he was invited into the American College of Trial lawyers in 2006, a status reserved for less than 1% of all practicing lawyers of any state or province.
In addition to the clients that he serves directly, Eric served the Ottawa community as Deputy Small Claims Court Judge for over 15 years. He has developed a comprehensive advocacy-training program within Williams Litigation Lawyers. He also informally acts as a mentor and teacher to lawyers outside the firm, giving generously to maintain excellence in advocacy. He is an active participant in the Advocates’ Society and law association education and mentoring programs. Eric is known as a lawyers’ lawyer.
Eric Williams represented the complainant seeking judicial review of the CITT's decision to dismiss its complaint. The Federal Court of Appeal remitted the matter back to the CITT for hearing on certain issues. The CITT ruled against Xwave and refused to grant an oral hearing with reference to the government’s “intention” in drafting the R.F.P. The F.C.A. agreed with the government—holding the CITT was not in breach of the Rules of Natural Justice in failing to order an oral hearing.
Eric and Jeremy acted for the Plaintiff who brought an action for breach of contract in relation to the purchase and sale of property. The case involved issues of ostensible authority, whether a contract existed, the Statue of Frauds, the doctrine of part-performance, and the relatively new cause of action “proprietary estoppel”. Campbell Pools leased commercial land from the Defendant for many years until a heavy snowstorm destroyed his leased premises. Under the lease, the Defendant was required to rebuild the destroyed structures. Campbell Pools negotiated with the Defendant’s agent to forego the Defendant’s obligations under the lease and part of the insurance proceeds received in exchange for the outright purchase of the lands. At trial, Eric and Jeremy successfully argued that the agent had ostensible authority to bind the Defendant, the agreement satisfied the Statute of Frauds despite being a ‘napkin agreement’, part-performance was established, and that, alternatively, the relatively new cause of action of “proprietary estoppel” applied. The Court awarded specific performance of the agreement of purchase and sale and our client was awarded the property.
Eric Williams successfully represented the defendant solicitor and law firm (John T. Clark, Clarks), against claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence, who advised a client on the application of the Planning Act and the Residential Complex Sales Representation Act to the construction of a 50 unit life lease housing complex.
Eric Williams and Kelly Hart successfully defended a solicitor at trial involving a scope of retainer dispute. The court confirmed that any duty to a client is limited to the scope of the retainer. A “limited retainer” describes circumstances such as where a solicitor is conducting a real estate transaction without search of title and advises the client that the work being done is less than usual.
This is differentiated from this case where the solicitor was retained for a disability claim and advised the client orally of other potential claims. While the solicitor orally confirmed his non-retainer on the other claims, he did not put this in explicitly in writing. This was not a case of limited retainer, and the failure to send a letter of non-retainer was not a breach of the standard of care. The trial decision was upheld at the Court of Appeal.
Eric Williams successfully represented a number of applicants in the breakup of a legal partnership. A key issue in the dispute was the suitability of having the court conclude the partnership court given specific wording in the partnership agreement and the division of partnership assets.
Eric Williams and Jeremy Rubenstein successfully represented the Plaintiffs at trial in this matter. The Plaintiffs were the beneficiaries of a parcel of land that was being held in trust for them by one of the Defendants (who was also a beneficiary). The parcel of land was purchased and held for the purposes of being turned into a residential development in the future. However, the trustee Defendant sold the property to his son’s friend under suspicious circumstances and without the knowledge or consent of the Plaintiffs. Eric and Jeremy successfully argued that the Defendant trustee was in violation of his obligations as trustee, that he was a “fraudulent person” under the Land Titles Act, and that the Defendant purchaser was not a bona fide purchaser for value without notice. Of note, the Court accepted the Plaintiff’s interpretation of “fictitious person” under the Land Titles Act in finding that the vendor was a fraudulent person, which was the first time this term had been judicially considered in this context. Ultimately, the Court undid the fraudulent transaction, declared the Plaintiffs’ interests in the property, and ordered the rectification of the title of the property.
Eric Williams successfully represented the plaintiff in a claim for damages when his helicopter crashed. The plaintiff succeeded at trial and appeal in holding both the insurer and the manufacturer liable for negligence.
Eric Williams and Kelly Hart successfully represented a contractor, Castonguay, in a motion seeking to dismiss Castonguay’s third party claim against its engineer, Zenix, who argued that the claim ought to be precluded on the basis that if Castonguay had obtained the insurance required by way of its contract with the owner (Plaintiff), Zenix would have been a beneficiary of that insurance.
The Court found that even if Castonguay had obtained the insurance, it was not was not plain or obvious that a claim for contribution or indemnity by Castonguay related to the services of Zenix would be precluded. Zenix was not afforded the benefit of the covenant to insure as it was not party to that agreement nor was it obvious that the parties to the contract intended to extend the benefits of insurance coverage to the losses involved. The motion to dismiss the claim as frivolous or vexatious was denied.
This was a classic David-and-Goliath scenario. Mr. Ward was terminated by one of the country's largest financial institutions after 30 years of service-and had his retirement monies withheld. Eric Williams led the team that successfully represented Mr. Ward's case: the defendant corporation was ordered to pay Mr. Ward what he was owed as well as damages for breach of contract and fiduciary duty-and the second-highest punitive damages ever awarded in a commercial case in Canada.
This case was one of a series of actions started against "social hosts" represented by Eric Williams from trial to the Supreme Court of Canada. In what the Globe and Mail called one of the most significant cases of 2007, Williams Litigation Lawyers successfully defended the hosts of a social gathering after one of their guests caused a serious motor vehicle accident- leading to a precedent-setting Supreme Court of Canada statement on individual responsibility and alcohol consumption. Legal observers have opined that this may be the most important tort case in Canada in thirty years.
CONGRATULATIONS to Eric Williams for once again being selected by his peers for inclusion in the 17th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada 2023. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled