Remembering a Giant of Canadian Tort Law

No lawyer’s library is complete without the works of the Honourable Allen M. Linden

This August, distinguished legal scholar and former Federal Court of Appeal justice Allen Martin Linden passed away at the age of 82.  Linden, a name synonymous with tort law, wrote the first ever Canadian textbook on the subject in 1972, now in its 14th edition.

Like his contribution to the scholarship, Linden’s passion for torts was few and far between.  As recounted by his daughter Wendy, a lawyer with Justice Canada:

“He saw tort law as a modifier of behaviour in a good way… It wasn’t just about the human stories that tort law seemed to bring to bear, or product liability, but he actually believed that tort law was a way to modify behaviour to deter wrongdoing.”

Linden was born in Toronto to Polish immigrants in 1937.  He graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1960 with the Silver Medal and attained his doctorate in law from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967.  At Berkeley he studied under John Fleming and William Prosser — two of legal history’s most influential torts scholars.

While completing his PhD, he returned to Osgoode where he was a professor from 1962 to 1978.  He would later teach at the University of Ottawa, the University of Oxford, the University of California, Monash University, Melbourne University, the University of British Columbia, and Pepperdine University.

He was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court in 1978 and to the Federal Court of Appeal in 1990.  He also served as President of the Law Reform Commission of Canada between 1983 and 1990.

Prior to his appointments, Linden’s legal work included obtaining compensation for victims of thalidomide, a drug prescribed in the early 1960s to treat morning sickness in pregnant women that caused major birth defects and infant death.  Speaking about the thalidomide cases, he said, “I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.  I stood up for them way back when no one else did and helped them get compensation”.

In 2015 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.