Founded as a construction boutique firm in 1982, Vancouver-based Singleton Urquhart underwent a significant overhaul in 2018, when it attracted Toronto construction luminaries Bruce Reynolds and Sharon Vogel – both of whom decamped from Borden Ladner Gervais – to its bench, amending its name and firmly establishing a second office in Toronto in the process. The firm has since blossomed into a two-pronged force with a dense combined pool of talent, ranging from senior statesmen to future stars and no shortage of star power in between. Far from content to rest on its already newly minted position, the firm, noted to be “on a growth kick,” elevated three new partners in Toronto in January 2020. The Toronto office also benefited from the arrival of Peter Wardle, formerly one of the name partners of his own firm Wardle Daley. “Peter is just an awesome litigator – in that Chris Paliare, Jonathan Lisus type-level,” insists a peer, namechecking two of Toronto’s other top litigators. Singleton Urquhart is also said to be “diversifying,” and indeed this observation is corroborated by a review of the firm’s Vancouver bench, with partners in this office occupying a spectrum of niches ranging from product liability, professional liability, labor and employment, entertainment and immigration.
Vancouver’s John Singleton, a celebrated construction litigation luminary and the firm’s initial figurehead, receives nearly unanimous praise. “John is among what is really only like two or three people of that caliber in the whole country,” opines one enthusiastic peer. “He works harder than any two people I know.” Singleton is counsel for BC Hydro in a major claim against the course of construction insurers on the BC Hydro Site C Project arising out of two slippage plain failures on the left bank of the project. The losses being claimed total in excess of $300 million. Singleton also represents Metro Vancouver in a dispute concerning the construction of a wastewater treatment plant. It was determined that the plant as originally designed could not be built for the amount tendered and additional claims for extras totalling in excess of $100 million were advanced. Ronald Josephson is purely a corporate commercial litigator, dealing with corporate governance, shareholder disputes and oppression remedies. Josephson has developed a niche in acting for clients from mainland China, with 40% of his client base being devoted to Chinese companies involved in shareholder disputes in Canada. Another senior figure in Vancouver, Avon Mersey is regarded by peers as “still a dynamo! He still tries cases and he usually WINS!” One peer quips, “If you’re against Avon Mersey, he’s going to taking a hammer out of the toolbox to use on you. It all depends on whether he’s going to use the mallet or the ball-peen hammer but either way it’s going to really HURT!” Historically revered for an insurance and product liability-related practice, Mersey handles BC-related product liability cases for a major auto manufacturer. At the younger level, Melanie Samuels maintains a diverse and unique practice that sees her juggling employment and immigration cases. Samuels represents an immigration consultant in a case alleging fraud and negligence involving over 60 Chinese nationals who paid in total over $5 million which they believe would lead them to getting Permanent Residency through the Yukon Provincial Nominee Program. These investments were made through a rogue investor who pocketed the money and passed along a series of forged documents. The nationals all reported to interviews at the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong only to be told their applications contained forged documents of approval in the immigration program and that they were banned for five years for applying to entry to Canada. There is an ongoing criminal investigation as well. Toronto’s Reynolds has been retained to advise the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority in relation to all disputes that arise on the CAD $5.7 billion cross-border Gordie Howe International Bridge. Reynolds is also leading the team representing QM LP in a major dispute arising out of a complex mine remediation project in Northern Manitoba. Reynolds is managing a CAD $75 million arbitration that involves multiple technical and contractual issues. Vogel represents the City of Ottawa in a matter concerning allegations of delays and service problems associated with the construction of the City’s $2.1 billion light rail transit system, known as the “O-Train.” Vogel has also been retained by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario to provide ongoing advice in relation to the completion of the $5.3 billion Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit system and to manage the various disputes that have arisen on the project.