G. Joseph Falconeri has devoted his lengthy legal career to personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Falconeri, along with Partners Bryan Rumble and Leigh Harrison, make up Falconeri Rumble Harrison LLP (FRH), one of Canada’s most experienced law firms. About eighty to eighty-five percent of FRH’s practice is dedicated to accident claims, such as car accidents, slips and falls, and insurance disputes.
The firm’s motto is, appropriately: ‘Your Partner in Recovery.’ Falconeri was thanked by a client after a favourable case resolution and told, ‘You are very much a partner in my recovery. You made me better, the best I could be,’ and the words of truthful and heartfelt appreciation clicked. We thought, ‘Be your partner in your recovery. That’s our job.’ And we do it well.”
In addition, FRH’s reputation for achieving results for clients suffering from spinal cord, neurological, psychological, orthopaedic, or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) earns the firm word-of-mouth recommendations. “We rely on the good services that we performed in the past to ensure that we perform good services in the future,” says Falconeri. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the work comes in based on the firm’s reputation on all sides – not just the personal injury side.”
The firm works with experts during the litigation process to achieve the best outcome for clients. When potential clients contact one of FRH’s multiple offices, they are treated with professionalism and respect. Telephone calls are thorough and vetted by one of the firm’s partners to determine if there is liability; without someone at fault, there is no case. This is followed by clients coming in for an interview which takes from three hours to a full day if necessary to find out their story if they know it.
Some clients come in with post-traumatic amnesia, so potential evidence in these cases may come from eyewitnesses or police officers. And in instances where the client does not have the physical stamina to attend one of FRH’s fully wheelchair-accessible offices, the firm visits them at their home, hospital bed, rehabilitation centre, or convalescent home.
During the interview, many details are gathered, from a full detailing of injuries to collateral information such as: what was the client doing for a living? What were their vocational and avocational aspirations? These and other questions are asked to determine whether to pursue future damages.
“Once you start a claim in this area of the litigation world, you get one kick at the can,” says Falconeri, “so you have to prognosticate everything on a balance of probability payable to the client through the legislative and case law regime.”
FRH has represented clients in Ontario and internationally, including three Canadian passengers who were badly injured when the driver of a Gibraltar-bound bus they were on fell asleep at the wheel and catapulted off the highway. In that case, FRH retained lawyers in the United States working on behalf of Canadian clients to sue the American tour operator.
In instances such as slip and falls at destination resorts, FRH handles cases which can be initiated in Canada – providing defendants submit to the jurisdiction, and Canadian parameters can be applied to the case. “We are very familiar with national and international court cases.”
At home or abroad, the FRH difference starts with teamwork which results in effective communication. Whenever a client comes in, they are not assigned just one lawyer to manage the file from start to finish but have access to all three partners at any point and a dedicated staff to handle the file.
“The reason we have all the partners manage all files is so we can continue to push files forward to get people to that stage of recovery we are aiming for,” states Partner Leigh Harrison, who has been with FRH since its 2009 inception. “Our clients are not held hostage by a given lawyer’s schedule. They have access to all of us, and we can schedule corporate or client meetings whenever one of the three of us are available as opposed to one specific lawyer. We really pride ourselves on that flexible approach and the ability to service clients as quickly as possible,” says Harrison.
“We do a division of labour that is really quite effective, and the clients appreciate the greater contact. And client contact is the heart and soul of what we do,” says Falconeri.
When a case goes to trial, not one but two partners are present, since there are so many moving parts, including experts and lay witnesses. This team approach is another difference from other personal injury firms and works well for FRH and its clients.
Even before being called to the bar in 1991, Falconeri noticed the damage caused by sports injuries, particularly football, where concussions are commonplace. While studying law at the University of Windsor, he knew he wanted to be a litigator and do jury trials, but not in criminal law. The other option was personal injury, where the majority of jury trials exist. “I thought that would be my calling, and as it turned out, I really found my calling,” he says.
Falconeri is a member of many legal groups including the Law Society of Ontario, the Ontario Bar Association, and the Canadian Bar Association. He is a believer in the strength of words and the power of action, and so FRH generously donates time and money to organizations that help to improve lives of injured people. Among these is the Canadian Spinal Research Organization for Sunnybrook’s Centre for Spinal Trauma.
For many years, he served as chair of the advisory panel for respected youth injury prevention program Play it Cool™. He was also one the founding participants of the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, where he serves on the board of directors. “I’ve been part of that organization for twenty-six years, but I’ve been a board member for about ten years,” says Falconeri, who is also the vice chair of the Humber River Hospital Foundation board of directors.
“On the concussion front, the literature on concussions – thanks to the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation – has now evolved into a better understanding of concussion.”
FRH has seen increases in specific types of claims, particularly concussions and post-concussion syndrome (PCS) which can result in dizziness, headaches, cognitive issues such as concentration or memory retention problems, and even long-lasting psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression. These issues can be debilitating, affecting someone’s ability to attend school, work, or even perform daily chores.
“Some think those kinds of people are whiners when [in fact] they have very legitimate injuries that are career-ending,” says Falconeri. “In many instances this can lead to suicide. And we’ve seen that in professional sport.” The firm has also seen a rise in fatalities, which Falconeri suspects is due to slower emergency response time because of increased traffic, with people who have survivable injuries no longer surviving.
For people who have sustained TBI, neurological, spinal cord, or other injuries, there is hope, says Falconeri. “What I like to tell our clients is you will get fast – as fast as the law permits – reliable and excellent service without any superfluous language. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly. You get it honestly; you get it competently, and you get our full and undying support.”