Bernice
Bowley

Partner

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Biography

Nationally recognized as a leading litigator, Bernice maintains a comprehensive commercial insurance litigation practice which includes general insurance defence, professional errors and omissions, product liability, construction, subrogation and coverage. She also practises in the areas of municipal liability and administrative law.

Bernice's clients include the Municipal General Insurance Program maintained by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and the Liability Insurance Program handled by the Manitoba School Boards Association. She is the Manitoba lawyer for a number of health-care professional liability programs. Her clients include a variety of other Canadian, American and international insurance companies.

Bernice has appeared before all levels of court in Manitoba, the Federal Court of Canada and various tribunals. Although Bernice excels in court, she is equally proficient in guiding clients through alternative dispute resolution and mediation proceedings to achieve resolution.

She has received multiple distinctions for her work as a commercial litigation, professional liability and municipal practitioner. Bernice became a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America, in 2020.

As chair of the litigation practice, Bernice leads a team of high-performing lawyers in the firm’s market-leading litigation practice. Bernice is also a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. 

Recognition

  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
  • Benchmark Litigation's Top 100 Women in Litigation in Canada, 2022
  • Benchmark Litigation’s Top 50 Women in Litigation in Canada, 2017–2021
  • Benchmark Litigation, Commercial; Insurance — Litigation Star
  • Best Lawyers in Canada, Insurance Law; Municipal Law
  • Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, 2022, Litigation — Commercial Insurance; Litigation —  Corporate Commercial; Professional Liability 
  • Chambers Canada, Litigation: General Commercial (Manitoba) — Leading Practitioner 

Select Experience

  • Sul v. The Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, Manitoba et al. 2021 MBQB 152 (CanLII):  By Notice of Application for judicial review, the Mayor of the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, Joy Sul, challenged an amended Procedures By-Law and two resolutions that had the effect of allowing a majority vote so that any member of council could carry out the duties of chair of council meetings and spokesperson for the municipality. The Mayor’s application was dismissed with costs awarded against her.
  • McLeod Estate v. Cole et al., 2021 MBQB 24 (CanLII): Bernice was part of a multi firm legal team which acted as counsel to a lawyer and two real estate agents in defending an action brought against them by family members who alleged that their father was not competent to sell some land. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed all aspects of the plaintiffs’ claim. The judgement is under appeal by the plaintiffs.
  • 5976511 Manitoba Ltd. et al. v., 2020 MBQB 7 (CanLII) : Bernice was hired as external counsel by the plaintiff companies to argue two motions: the plaintiffs’ motion to enforce a settlement, and the defendants’ opposing motion to strike the motion to enforce the settlement as being an abuse of process. The motion to strike the settlement motion was granted by Madame Justice Grammond despite it being an exceptional remedy. 
  • Penner et al. v. Rural Municipality of Montcalm, 2019 MBQB 122 (CanLII): Acting for the Rural Municipality of Montcalm (the “R.M.”), Bernice brought a summary judgment motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ consolidated actions.  The plaintiffs disputed the legitimacy of the municipal tax sales of certain pieces of land in which they claimed to have interests, and sought to quash the tax sale provisions in The Municipal Act.  On all of the issues raised by the plaintiffs, the Court held that there was no genuine issue requiring a trial and dismissed them.  Further, the Court was troubled by the plaintiff’s many serious allegations against the R.M., regarding discriminatory and malicious conduct, with reference to historical hate crimes, without any evidence to support those allegations.  Therefore, to send a clear message to the plaintiffs as to the consequences of pursuing meritless litigation in a manner deserving of reproof and rebuke, she ordered costs on a lawyer and client basis in favour of the R.M.    
  • Henderson v. Canadian Hockey Association Inc. et al, 2016 MBQB 51, Henderson v Elder, 2017 MBCA 45, 2018 CanLII 1153 (SCC) : Following a trial in the fall of 2016, Bernice was successful in dismissing the statement of claim brought against the volunteer coach of the peewee hockey team following incidental physical contact between the plaintiff referee and a peewee player.  The plaintiff referee sought to hold Bernice’s client, the volunteer coach, responsible for damages arising out of the contact.  The trial Judge held that the plaintiff failed to meet his onus in establishing negligence and his claim was dismissed with costs. Following an appeal in 2017 by the plaintiff referee, the Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s dismissal of the statement of claim, writing that there was no evidence of negligence, carelessness or intent to injure on the part of the unidentified player or the volunteer coach, and that he had failed to meet his burden to establish liability. In 2018, the plaintiff referee sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. His leave application was dismissed.
  • Susinski et al. v. Municipality of Shoal Lake et al., 2017 MBQB 132 (CanLII): The plaintiffs claimed for house damage resulting from the municipal low-pressure sewer system.  Bernice acted for the municipality and brought a successful summary judgment motion.  

Presentations

  • Bernice is a sought-after speaker on insurance law, risk management, municipal and general litigation issues. 

Education

  • University of Manitoba, ​LLB, 1993
  • University of Manitoba, BA (Honours), 1988
  • University of Winnipeg, BA, 1985

Bar Admissions

  • Manitoba, 1994

Professional Affiliations

  • Member, Canadian Bar Association, Manitoba Branch