Obiter Episode 6 – Advancing Access to Justice – Talking Class Actions and Creativity with Partner Sabrina Lombardi
In this episode co-hosts Pat Clancy, Nusaiba Al-Azem and Class Actions Partner Sabrina Lombardi talk all about Class Actions as a tool for advocating for justice, discuss details related to the Grenville Christian College Class Proceedings and what getting creative with life outside of the courtroom looks like for Sabrina.
To read more about Sabrina Lombardi see her full bio here.
Questions about this Podcast? Email hosts Patrick Clancy or Nusaiba Al-Azem or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to Obiter on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or RSS Feed.
Patrick Clancy: 0:00
Hey everyone. Welcome to the opener podcast. I’m Pat Clancy and I’m Nusaiba Al-Azem and this is episode six of the lawyer series. In this series we sit down with lawyers at McKenzie Lake to discuss their career personal life and anything in between, all in an effort to introduce our listeners to the human being behind the lawyer.
Intro Sound: 0:40
Patrick Clancy: 0:42
So today we’re sitting down with Sabrina Lombardi, a class-actions lawyer at McKenzie lake, and also a partner. And I’m doing this interview with another guest co- host , Nusaiba Al-Azem. Hi, how are you doing today?
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 0:57
Good, how are you?
Patrick Clancy: 0:58
Good. So Sabrina is sitting beside us. Sabrina, how are you doing today?
Sabrina Lombardi: 1:01
I’m doing well thanks.
Patrick Clancy: 1:02
Good. Why don’t we just start off , give us a little bit of a bio about yourself. Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Sabrina Lombardi: 1:09
Sure. Um, the very short version is , since about 2006 , my practice as a lawyer has focused on complex litigation. That includes class actions, multi-party litigation and mass torts. And those cases have included things like , consumer products, pharmaceutical products. So consumer protection products, liability type cases, but has also included social justice issues as well.
Patrick Clancy: 1:39
Okay. And recently , you were part of a big decision or an important decision, I should say , um, relating to the Grenville Christian college in Brockville. Is that right?
Sabrina Lombardi: 1:51
Patrick Clancy: 1:51
Why don’t you give us a little bit of a background of that case, I guess what’s happened on that case and , and some of the facts surrounding it?
Sabrina Lombardi: 2:00
Sure. Um , so I inherited that case when me and my team moved over to McKenzie Lake , and when the lawyer who had commenced, it was elevated to the bench. And so obviously he could no longer, you know , keep it on. And I would say I inherited it maybe a little past the halfway mark, and it’s an , the total lifespan of this case.
Patrick Clancy: 2:26
So what’s the life span of this case?
Sabrina Lombardi: 2:28
So the case was commenced back in 2007. So it’s been ongoing for quite some time. It was commenced as a class action. And just as a bit of background, you can’t simply declare a case is a class action. And, and forge ahead, you actually have to go through a process called certification. Certification is essentially asking for the court’s permission to proceed in this grouped fashion because the class action is a specific type of tool of grouping people together that has features to it that are, are unique and limited to cases that are conducive to proceeding in that way. So cases where the common components of the claims are the, the more significant pieces and those individual idiosyncratic aspects are less important , or less overwhelming , that the case really isn’t about those individual idiosyncrasies. It’s more about those common aspects.
Patrick Clancy: 3:31
And so this Grenville Christian college case. Why don’t you give us some of the facts surrounding that case and what I guess mentioned earlier, common issues that made this a class action or …
Sabrina Lombardi: 3:43
So the facts were that the case claimed that this school Grenville Christian college over the span of 1973 to 1997, was essentially operating at a policy level , um, in a practices level, in a systemically negligent fashion, and therefore, you know, perpetuating abuses on its boarding students. So tweens and teens, you know, that were living and residing at the school, they were boarding at this school over that period of time. And so the abuses range from emotional to physical, to even sexual abuses in some cases
Patrick Clancy: 4:32
To get a sense, I guess, of, of the issues and to make your class actions case you probably have to read through a lot of intense transcripts or interviews.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 4:43
Or conduct those interviews yourself.
Patrick Clancy: 4:45
Conduct those interviews.
Sabrina Lombardi: 4:46
Well, absolutely. So the case, as I mentioned, you know, having been commenced in 2007, we didn’t get to trial until 2019. Um, and so in between that time, there had been a stage of examinations. So there was an exchange of documents by the parties. Um, and then certain witnesses, like our representative plaintiffs were examined to kind of get the background information. Between, you know , what was being claimed and also what the defenses might be and, you know, what the school was about and a huge exchange of documents. Yeah, yeah.
Patrick Clancy: 5:26
Like thousands, tens of thousands.
Sabrina Lombardi: 5:28
Tens of thousands of pieces of paper, you know, and more, I think almost a hundred bankers boxes, you know, filled with information that had to be processed , you know, in advance of the trial, along with the witness statements, not just from our representative plantiffs , but over the course of this life, of this case, there’s been about 300 class members that have come forward and actively stated that they want to be kept in terms of how it’s going. And they wanted to share their stories with us. You know, sometimes it took them years, they would first come to just register their name. And then many years later they, they found, you know, the courage enough to go back to those experiences and share them with.
Patrick Clancy: 6:15
So would these representative plaintiffs have been some of the more egregious examples of the abuse that happened there? Or is that accurate to say?
Sabrina Lombardi: 6:25
I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t attempt to qualify, you know, as what they experienced as being more egregious or less egregious.
Patrick Clancy: 6:35
But it was egregious?
Sabrina Lombardi: 6:35
It was, it was a bizarre school. Um, and so maybe if I can, yeah, I’ll talk a little bit about what the place was like. So Grenville was a place of strict discipline and high level scrutiny. It was way more strict than a normal school. They expected these preteens and teens to submit yield and obey to authority. Unquestioningly like , if you can just imagine any child that, you know, I, I can’t. I can’t imagine toddlers doing it. And I certainly can’t imagine teenagers, you know, being able to provide that kind of deferential obedience, but that’s what was expected.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 7:24
I can imagine adults doing.
Sabrina Lombardi: 7:27
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 7:27
So what exactly did they expect from these students?
Sabrina Lombardi: 7:30
You know, it’s kind of amorphous in the sense that some things were prescribed, like they had written rules, like you would expect any school to have particularly a boarding school that had , you know, both boys and girls boarding there. So no smoking and no drinking and things like that, but they also had rules, the dress code rules, not just here’s your uniform and, you know, keep it in good order and wear it appropriately. But it , it got down to the minutia of prescribing what the girls underwear could be, right. They weren’t allowed hip hugger or bikini type underwear is what one policy, a written policy that they said.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 8:15
Did anyone ever, how can you check that? I don’t think you can check them.
Sabrina Lombardi: 8:20
They did at this school. So there were dorm supervisors that would essentially perform raids and they would open up drawers and they would check to see if there was any violating underwear. And if there was those students were disciplined and discipline is, has really a whole other meaning at this school than what you might think.
Patrick Clancy: 8:42
What are some examples?
Sabrina Lombardi: 8:45
So they had a particularly unique form of discipline that they were referred to, or that is sometimes referred as a light session. And a light session is a term that comes more from the Christian sect that the headmasters and all of the teachers who taught at Grenville belonged , that Christian sect is a communal living Christian society , out on Cape Cod in the U.S. It was founded by two women that are known as mothers Kay and Judy , and they prescribe a life of, you know, like strict obedience. So Grenville was essentially based on those core values and that, that method. So there they lived communally in this communal sect , down in Cape Cod. Multi-families, you know, lived together in a house. Often children were not permitted to live with their own parents. And so you see that also mimicked Grenville. So the staff or members of this Christian community, and they’re kind of offsite leaders are not mothers Kay , and Judy, but are the actual headmasters of this school. And their own children are being put into the student residences with other boarding students and taken away from the parents, or sometimes if they were too young to start boarding with other students were sent to live with someone else , because that society thought that parental love was idolatrous and it sort of competed with the love for God and that kind of thing. So that mentality is sort of the overarching atmosphere of how Grenville is structured and how that school is operating. And what is the experience of the regular boarding student? Who is not necessarily a member of this community of Jesus. But just someone who has been signed up to attend this private school. So they’re exposed to some of these practices. So these light sessions, which again, they happen at the community, but also at the school involved anything from large public assemblies. So either everyone in the dining room or everyone in the chapel, and they would haul up kids who had transgressed in some way, maybe they were caught smoking. Maybe they weren’t smiling enough. Maybe they were deemed to have a Hottie attitude. And they were, you know, a strip was torn off of them up and down in front of the whole school. Not just by the headmasters teachers were involved kind of pipe in and pile on. Students were invited to stand up and pile on and also kind of point fingers.
Patrick Clancy: 11:44
Like degrade them? Kind of?
Sabrina Lombardi: 11:46
Exactly. Yeah. And so You can imagine what that must be like for the student experiencing it, the one called out. But I think you can also imagine what it was like witnessing this, you know, and you live here, right? You don’t, you don’t get to go home at the end of the day to your own mum and dad and have a different environment you’re in this environment 24/7. So those light sessions where , you know, I’ll say unique to Grenville , they also employed corporal punishment. And so that was something that did happen at other schools, certainly during this time period , you know, it was on the books as being, you know , technically allowed, but in terms of the standards of how it was applied , were very different than what we learned occurred at Grenville. In some cases we heard testimony of individuals who were beaten so hard with a paddle that they collapsed and they were picked up so that it could continue or you know they bled, they were beaten so hard that they bled. That is not the kind of corporal punishment. I think in other instances, you hear it referred to as, you know, how many licks of the paddle did you get? These were more than licks. This was, this was physical abuse. And so those are just, those are just a few examples of the experiences of these students during this time period.
Patrick Clancy: 13:17
Some of these, some of these class members, maybe a lot of them would have been maybe not far off your age. Right. Like, so it was probably all the more powerful, I guess, knowing that, like I could have been summoned to this school, right. Had I have been born into a certain family. Did it ever, did that, did that ever cross your mind?
Sabrina Lombardi: 13:40
I think it was more. That I could, I could relate to where they were in life at this moment. Right. Because we are maybe similar in age and stage. And I was, I dunno , I , I feel like I got a glimpse into the resiliency of the human being that they had or were, or managed to , some of them did manage to carve out relatively, you know, quote unquote normal lives. And they have, you know, family life and, you know, good jobs and things like that. And they were able to sort of overcome this trauma that they would have experienced in their past and others that maybe weren’t able to overcome it as well. You know, you could, you had compassion for that and you could understand why they, why they couldn’t and still can’t today.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 14:31
So are there therapists or mental health professionals who kind of help to mediate or get involved at the stage of when you are kind of like bringing these stories to light or I suppose one other question is, you know , how do you unlock these stories of trauma and abuse, from a lot of people that you mentioned, maybe might’ve kept it buried for very long time, whether for defense mechanisms or any other reasons, and how do you unlock that in a responsible way?
Sabrina Lombardi: 15:02
Right. So I didn’t have a professional involved in that process. As I was preparing for the case, I determined based on the kind of written stories that we had received from this, you know, 300 or so class member database that we had, we had a time period to cover, right. So it was about also showing that these experiences were common to the people who attended in 73 all the way to 1997. That was my class period. And I couldn’t call all 300 class members forward. Right. We had five weeks to do a trial. So we had to be selective. And so, you know, I, I organized it in that way and I just reached out. I had, you know, a listing of when people attended, which years and things like that, I knew their stories. I reached out to people, you know, that I thought would, would be representative of the time period to see if they were willing to , to give their evidence. And you know, some were not, and some were very willing and I worked really closely with them, you know, gingerly. You know, and explained before I asked them to tell me anything about their experience. I wanted them to understand what they would be facing. You know, what chief exam looked like, you know, on the stand, what a cross examination might look like and the types of buttons that might be pushed in that, in that environment. Um, and then ask them again, are you, you know, do you want to try and engaging in that, almost that exercise. And we almost mock it out a little bit to see how comfortable they were and some didn’t end up taking the stand at the end of the day , because they, they just couldn’t. And I completely understand why not, you know, especially at the cross-examination stage , it was difficult. And I can tell you all of the witnesses that we had that gave evidence, I was in awe of them in terms of the composure that they had and their ability to sort of relate their story, but also , keep it together under cross examination. They’re amazing.
Patrick Clancy: 17:20
You had co-counsel as well. You were saying, we, as you were telling that story, who is a sexual assault litigator in Toronto.
Sabrina Lombardi: 17:27
Patrick Clancy: 17:27
What insight did she bring to the case that helped achieve the outcome you wanted ?
Sabrina Lombardi: 17:32
Yeah, It was, I think, essential. I couldn’t imagine having done that trial without her expertise and experience. You know , a class action, like I was explaining before, it’s mostly a tool it’s not in and of itself an area of law. It’s not, it’s a specialty in terms of how it’s used. Knowing when it’s useful to use that tool or that overlay for certain types of cases, and then knowing how to navigate that case through that class action system, you know, it’s very complex, but at the end of the day, this was a case about physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and really who better than someone who brings those cases forward all the time , to be involved with this, I think it’s essential and it’s responsible as a class action practitioner to make sure that you have the best people on your team to advocate, you know, the case that you’re putting forward.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 18:31
Yeah. Because like you said, it is a tool. And I mean, you have experienced a number of different types of class actions, not all of which have to do with these like very personal stories. Some of which are just product liability cases that are kind of a lot more sterile.
Sabrina Lombardi: 18:49
Well, you’re just dealing with, you know, negligence and that’s , you know, that’s a legal question. It’s not, you know, so specific that there’s some kind of, you know, sub genre though, you know , things like securities, class actions, right? Like having a knowledge of that securities ,, legislation and case law, you know, is important. If you’re going to pursue those types of cases.
Patrick Clancy: 19:11
Who was your co counsel ?
Sabrina Lombardi: 19:14
It was Lorreta Merrit at Torkin Maines.
Patrick Clancy: 19:17
Was there a particular moment in the, in the case that you said to yourself, like, geez, if she’s not with me on this, I’m not sure we overcome this issue or did you guys kind of work collaboratively throughout the whole thing?
Sabrina Lombardi: 19:29
We were really collaborative through the whole thing. So in terms of the preparation, she had been involved since a much earlier stage , and I needed to sort of catch up to her. She was great to work with along the way, like I’ve described this very emotionally charged environment, you know, and class members and, you know, the courtroom for sure, for those five weeks, it was intense. And I can share some stories about that with you in a bit, but it’s going to sound bizarre, but we would make each other laugh. Like we would just, there were moments where we would just have to, like, we were like giggling school girls. We had to like cover our face and go, this is, you know, this thing that just happened, or this thing that was just said is really funny. Or, you know, there was a super-intense moment and we could just lean and rely on each other. So on a personal level , um, we got along really, really well, which was great. Given the sort of gravitas of the, the emotional underpinnings involved in this case.
Patrick Clancy: 20:29
Yeah. You had to have good chemistry with her. That was the first time you’d worked with her before?
Sabrina Lombardi: 20:34
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 20:35
So why don’t you tell us a little bit about, you said, you know, like there’s some crazy stories. Give us at least one, of what happened during this trial.
Sabrina Lombardi: 20:43
Well, you were asking about, you know, like the emotionality of dealing with the topic and dealing with the individuals involved. And certainly, you know, it was emotional for me, but it was intensely emotional at times for the class members. So for the whole five weeks at the trial the gallery of the courtroom. And we had one of the big courtrooms , in Toronto was packed with class members, just chockablock packed with class members all the time. So our rep plaintiffs were there, but other class members who weren’t giving evidence were just there to sort of, to witness and to watch this trial go on, because, you know, they were, they’re invested in it. Right.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 21:25
Yeah, of course, absolutely. I would definitely want to be there if I was in their shoes.
Sabrina Lombardi: 21:30
Absolutely. And so there was this one moment, and I think it sort of is the best example of the kind of range of emotions that we experience on a daily basis. Through this trial, one of our witnesses was providing evidence about an experience that she had had early on when she started boarding at the school. And it had something to do with the fact that she was being a bit cheeky about her uniform and making fun of it a bit. One of the other prefects students called her out on it. She got cheeky with the prefect and the prefect one and, you know , told on her because that was tattling is an easy way of describing their so-called honor code. They were required to report on each other. Like that was, that was part of this atmosphere at this school. Anyhow. So she is reported. But nothing happens until she’s woken up in the middle of the night. She’s hushed out of her room, told to bring her uniform forced to get into her uniform. And at some, you know, hour after midnight is brought in to the headmaster sort of lounge, where there was a headmaster and like a , a co headmaster in their wives, the witness described them as, you know, maybe being a bit drunk or something like it was really late at night. It was the middle of the night. She was absolutely terrified. And she starts getting interrogated and called all kinds of things. You know, “who do you think you are? You’re disgusting.” And, but anyways, it just goes on. She is absolutely berated. She’s terrified. And so she’s describing this incident and all the while in the gallery, you can hear sobs. And then there’s finally a moment where we are taking a courtroom break and the woman who was sobbing is now out in the hallway. And she is, I don’t know if you’ve ever been with someone who is sobbing so uncontrollably. Like it’s not something that can be controlled. It is just kind of, it’s all out , it’s hysterical and this is what was happening. And so we all rush out to see if she’s okay. And when she finally was able to calm down, she explained, she said, I, it was a dream. Oh, really? She’s like, it happened to me. I thought it was a dream all these years. So she was commenting on listening to this other person, give evidence, having had the experience herself, but sort of repressed it so much that it came forward for her and observing the trial. So that’s just one example of the kind of emotions that came up.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 24:08
Yeah. That sounds like incredibly emotionally charged and like , a very, u m, I guess emotionally charged is the only way to say for the class members. And so this kind of d oes a little bit, I guess when I was thinking, when I was hearing you talk about the gallery being so full of class members, and now t hat the, I guess, to reveal what has happened to this case, if the audience doesn’t already know you are preparing for an appeal, which might very well be heard by zoom soon. So I kept thinking the whole time, w hile if it was, if the gallery was full in person there, I can’t imagine now how many people are going to be tuning in on Zoom.
Sabrina Lombardi: 24:53
There’s a lot of people interested in. So as soon as we can share those details with the class members, we’ll let them know. Yeah, there was never a day where the gallery wasn’t filled with just class members who wanted to come and to, you know, experience and listen to other people’s testimony and show support for the case. It was incredible to have that kind of support behind me every single day. It was amazing.
Patrick Clancy: 25:17
I have to think a case like this would be covered by the media quite a bit. Was it?
Sabrina Lombardi: 25:22
There was media present during the trial. There was a bit of a , not a ban, but, you know, there was a limit in terms of what they could say during the trial. Particularly because you had witnesses in and out of that gallery who were sometimes excluded. Right. And couldn’t be in the gallery until after they gave their evidence and things like that. So there was some coverage , throughout the trial, but certainly lots before , um, and, and a little bit after as well.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 25:53
So I, I’m curious also, if you heard at all from any of the religious groups or, or any churches, either condemning, you know , condemning you for, for exposing what happened or condemning, you know, the practices that happen there, or , if you’ve had any response at all from any religious communities.
Sabrina Lombardi: 26:12
So I have not had any , express response initially when this case was first brought forward back in 2007, in addition to the school and the headmasters involved at the school, the Anglican diocese was named as a defendant early on. But they were before 2014 when the case was certified by the divisional court, they were removed , because it came to light that they didn’t really have a controlling interest in the school. Um, even though one, the headmasters was an ordained Anglican Anglican priest, even though he belonged to this community of Jesus sect out in Cape Cod. So we did not hear from religious groups , or I did not hear anything, you know, after the trial. I do know that the media, when you were talking about the media though, I was contacted more than once by media, down in Massachusetts , who write a lot of stories, I guess, about the community of Jesus down there. And I do know that that organization, you know, had an interest in terms of how this proceeding was going. It didn’t name them, you know, as defendants or anything. But there is definitely I can understand their interest in it.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 27:28
Yeah. They’re probably keeping, keeping an eye out on what happens. And so do you think that that might change also as if this does become a zoom trial that you think there might be more interest from those groups or community members?
Sabrina Lombardi: 27:41
It’s very possible. And just like any court case, you know, they’re public. Unless there’s a specific ban otherwise, so everyone’s invited to come and check it out, whether it’s on zoom or in person.
Patrick Clancy: 27:54
How hard is it to balance the individuals versus the collective, because , you know, you have your representative plaintiffs who are individuals and those are the individuals you’d be getting to know pretty well, but you have to have an eye out for the collective class. And , and what’s it like to balance that? Do you , is it like a utilitarian approach or?
Sabrina Lombardi: 28:16
Well, in every, in every case it’s different, but I will say , I have a colleague that famously refers to class actions sometimes as rough justice. So there is a utilitarian aspect to them. They are much more focused on those common components. You know, this, the Grenville case that I was involved in, it’s one of the few common issues, trials that have happened in class actions, they, the vast majority of them don’t go that far. So when you look at the settlements that come out of class actions, they tend to be focused on recompense for those common components. And so again, those individual idiosyncratic special to an individual that might be able to be compensated in an individual lawsuit, right. They could be added to those bigger damages. They don’t always get covered off in a class action. So the balance can be difficult. It’s, it’s having an understanding and in gathering enough information and data to know , where that balance lies, especially as you approach settlement of cases.
Patrick Clancy: 29:32
Why do you think this? You said a lot of CA class actions , cases settle. Why do you think this one’s going all the way to a trial and an appeal, or what makes us unique that way?
Sabrina Lombardi: 29:42
Well I think the vast majority of lawsuits settle, you know, I think that the status thing it’s in the 90th percentile anyways, high nineties. So class actions are no different in that regard. And, but you’re going to have a few that are going to go beyond. And this was one , I think in part, this was one because some of the defense against it less about like the substantive defense , um, and the reason why it wasn’t initially certified was that there was a lot of argument against using the class action tool to push this case forward. And a little bit more emphasis on saying if we could have, you know, the defendants say safe , we could have organized this in some other way. It would be more efficient. And the class action can’t deal with the depths of the individual issues, right. In a way that still makes sense for it to go forward as a class action. So that was one of the arguments against it, going ahead as a class action. Ultimately though I think we were able to show , in winning the combination trial, that class actions can be used to advance cases like this, even though there are, you know, individual components that are important. There is there still a utility in this mechanism in terms of advancing access to justice for large groups of people, especially in social social justice, you know , issues like this one.
Patrick Clancy: 31:12
Greenville Christian college has been shut down for a while. Now that it’s advancing to a trial and it’s been going on for 13, 14 years. What about the resources that may be available in a judgment to the class members? Like if you go, if it’s, if it’s a 14 year trial that’s been going on that long, like how much has money has been spent on legal fees and defense, do you have to factor that in, at all?
Sabrina Lombardi: 31:37
Factor that in, I mean, these cases are pursued on a contingency fee basis, you know, on the part on our side of things. Um, and so, you know, our interests are aligned in terms of if, if there’s nothing for the class members, there’s nothing for us either. Um, and we just, if there’s nothing for us, then we have to eat all of that, right . That that’s ours to deal with. In a case like this sure , this school is no more. And so, you know, like other cases, you know, in the background of everything there’s insurance and so that, and that’s in some ways, the tragedy of this case too, right? You have these individuals who now essentially have to, it comes down to making an insurance claim in some ways. Right. You know , because there’s limits to insurance policies and things like that. So , yeah. Litigation in any form class or individual, you know, it’s never ideal, right? The idea behind any kind of lawsuit like this is to try to put someone back in the place they have been, but for, you know, the wrongdoing, but to the extent money can put them in that place. Right. And that’s, that’s super limited. I know that the reaction that I got from the class members from this decision, this was the common issue is trial did not , come with an award of damages. It was just to deal with the big common questions, respecting the wrongdoing , and you know, and the liability tied to that wrongdoing, it did not come with any kind of award of money for class members. And yet I’ll say the response that I received and my co-counsel Loretta received from class members was overwhelmingly positive. They felt vindicated and validated, and that, you know, that is something to be able to give someone that was something that’s more than money. Right. You can’t buy that.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 33:32
Yeah. And that’s one of ’em you mentioned earlier, you know, the , one of the big points of this case was improving that class actions has a utility like this mechanism as a utility in advancing claims that do have a lot of really individual components that are uniquely individual to the trauma of each person. But , one of those benefits I can think off the top of my head would be that, you know, especially in, in a, me too world, in a world where a lot of this stuff is coming up and not everybody wants to be subjected or not that anyone wants to, but not every anyone or everyone can be subjected to the grueling , nature of cross-examination . And this may be , does like allow a mechanism for some people to seek justice and without necessarily having to sit on the stand and, you know, describe in detail their own personal experience of abuse.
Sabrina Lombardi: 34:26
Right. And they can still be a part of it and the mechanism can advance those, those common questions, speaking to, you know, the wrongdoing, the liability side of things. And even if that isn’t the full answer for every individual, it’s still a big piece of it. And so when they do finally have to come forward and say something, you know, to their own experience, to have their claim wrapped up, it’s a lot less daunting. Then it would have been if they had started an individual litigation on their own
Patrick Clancy: 34:57
Well, that’s interesting. And we look forward to what happens on the appeal. You just, before you came in today, we were asking you what you were up to today, and you were drafting the fact and for the appeal that we’re working on it. So that’s cool. It’s ongoing. Um, but like we always do on this podcast, we always want to get to know the individual a little bit and get to know what kinds of things you like to do outside the law. I understand you’ve got a little bit of an interest in woodworking?
Sabrina Lombardi: 35:22
I do. Yes.
Patrick Clancy: 35:24
Sabrina Lombardi: 35:26
I’ve always dabbled in, I like to do creative things when I’m outside of the office, because I like to use different parts of my brain and, you know , actually use my hands for something besides typing or texting that’s right. So, you know, I’ve done painting and I’m learning how to garden. I don’t kill all of my houseplants plants anymore. I’ve gotten kind of proficient at that. They’re alive still. And then, yeah, I started woodworking. I decided I wanted to make myself a dining room table. And so that’s where it started. Yeah. And I gathered up, so my father had been a carpenter , growing up. And he had made some very, very seventies furniture , um, consisting of like big wooden pieces and this kind of like foam leather seating. And after he passed , I had different extended family that kind of picked up the pieces of the furniture that he had made over the course of his life. And they took little pieces here and there. And I noticed that a lot of them were, you know, collecting dust in basements or, you know, I had one uncle who had it, like outside in his car port where you would come and like hang out or whatever. And so I went in and gathered up all of that stuff. I reclaimed all of that wood and I made my table out of all of that reclaimed wood. So it was a really special moment for me. And I absolutely loved working with power tools and going through that process. So it was a really rustic kind of design. So I also got to beat up this wood with like bags of nails and hammers. It was a fabulous experience.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 37:06
This was your first foray into woodworking?
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:09
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 37:09
Was just like zero to a hundred. I’m going to make a table.
Patrick Clancy: 37:12
Didn’t you build a house too?
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:14
Well, I didn’t build it.
Patrick Clancy: 37:15
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:16
I have built homes. Yeah. This is this I’m in my third house that I’ve built or been involved in the building. I really love that.
Patrick Clancy: 37:26
Like elaborate a little bit. Like what do you mean you’ve built two houses?
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:29
Okay. So, I mean, I think like a lot of people, I went with a new build, so I worked with the contractor and did all of that. But the one experience I had was , my mom was wanting to build a house and she didn’t want to go with a contractor. She really wanted to try to manage the build on her own.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 37:47
Oh. So that’s a very large undertaking.
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:52
It was, it was interesting. I was in law school at the time when this was ongoing.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 37:56
Um, nothing else on your plate.
Sabrina Lombardi: 37:58
Right. And so I was dealing with a lot of phone calls , you know, in terms of managing that situation. Cause it was just, it was, it was too big of a task for her to take on. And frankly for me too, but.
Patrick Clancy: 38:10
So did you end up becoming the project manager?
Sabrina Lombardi: 38:14
The defacto manager.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 38:17
So it worked, there’s running water in the house?
Sabrina Lombardi: 38:21
No everything passed inspection and all of that, but it’s, it’s a huge, huge undertaking. I , you know, my hat goes off to the contractors of this world. You’ll have to just scheduling all of the work that needs to be is a task in and of itself. Let alone the work that goes into it. So yeah.
Patrick Clancy: 38:40
In ordinarily, you know, in your job, you’d be traveling a lot for class actions, right? Lots of conferences in the States and probably a lot I don’t even know about, but now not a lot of that going on, I would assume.
Sabrina Lombardi: 38:53
Travel, no, not at all.
Patrick Clancy: 38:54
Sabrina Lombardi: 38:55
Yes and no. I mean the travel, it’s funny, right? When you, when you talk about, oh, I have to fly off to Miami tomorrow for this or that. And people are like, oh, you know, you know, that sucks for you I guess. And , it does though, right? It’s part of the job. You’re going there to work. You’re not always, you know, you’re not sightseeing necessarily. And I’m away from my family, which can be hard. And depending how many days I have on the road, you know, it’s harder than others. So it’s, you know, I will say one of the silver linings in my life with COVID, if there is a silver lining to be had is the extra time with family. Honestly, it’s been a real blessing. This trial took me away from my family for five straight weeks. I would see them for one and a half days , during that time. And otherwise I was living in Toronto, away from them. So I, I feel like I’ve made up for lost time now.
Nusaiba Al-Azem: 39:53
They’re like, mom, you can go back. So as a class actions, lawyer who does social justice related issues, I have to ask on behalf of all of the viewers who , uh, like this movie, do you ever feel like you’re Erin Brockovich or similar? Do you have a poster of Erin Brockovich on you wall?
Sabrina Lombardi: 40:17
You know, I’ve been involved , uh, in all kinds of cases, I’ve done car cases and pharmaceutical cases, and I was even involved in an environmental case. And I absolutely can tell you that at that time, and this is, you know, at least a decade ago , um, I certainly felt an affinity for Erin Brockovich in that moment just because the case was so similar to that.:
Patrick Clancy: 40:44
Sabrina, thanks so much for sitting down with us today.