The McKenzie Towne long term care facility seen in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 3, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘More and more claims:’ Pandemic lawsuits could tie up courts for years

Residents at care homes have been particularly infected with the novel coronavirus

Lawsuits involving seniors homes, airlines, universities and ticket providers affected by COVID-19 could tie up Canadian courts for years, says a litigation lawyer.

Michael Smith, a partner at the Bennett Jones law firm in Toronto, says it has been tracking all proposed class-action claims related to the pandemic.

From the end of March to June 1, the firm recorded 19 such lawsuits across Canada, including eight against long-term care facilities.

“What you find with COVID is the breadth of the sectors it touches,” Smith said in an interview.

“You’re seeing many industry sectors affected simultaneously. We will have COVID-related cases in the courts for many years.”

Residents at care homes have been particularly infected with the novel coronavirus.

The Canadian Armed Forces released a report last month detailing awful conditions at many care homes in Ontario and Quebec where the military has been deployed. Allegations include residents being left in filth and staff failing to isolate those who had tested positive for the virus.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed alleging negligence in dealing with COVID-19 in long-term care.

“We’re going to see more and more claims like that mature as the COVID crisis continues,” says Smith. “It really does have such a human element and the issue can be humanized so easily in our minds.”

Calgary lawyer Clint Docken has filed a lawsuit against Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Long Term Care centre, where 19 residents have so far died from COVID-19.

He says a class action has been filed against all Ontario homes owned by Revera, the company that also runs McKenzie Towne, but he is focusing on just the Calgary location.

“The reason we’ve shied away from that is we’re not sure it was a common experience.”

Docken is also in the early stages of a lawsuit involving the Cargill meat-packing plant at High River, Alta., the site of one of Canada’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks. More than 900 employees tested positive for the virus and two workers died.

Docken was previously involved in class actions against Maple Leaf for a deadly listeriosis outbreak in 2008 and against XL Foods after an E. coli outbreak in 2012 lead to the largest food recall in Canadian history.

“It’s the conditions in the plants. In Maple Leaf it was the sanitary condition in the plant and in XL Foods it was the sanitary condition in the plant,” he said..

“In a sense, (Cargill) is another sanitary condition in a plant lawsuit. These plants are cesspools.”

Michael Hughes, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents workers at Cargill, says leaders have been speaking with lawyers in and outside Alberta about a lawsuit “to try and make whole our members at Cargill who suffered as a result of the outbreak.”

Other COVID-19 lawsuits involve airline travellers refused fare refunds, businesses looking for compensation against insurance companies not paying interruption insurance, and university students who want partial tuition refunds due to a shortened school year.

There’s also a class action against Ticketmaster for its refusal to issue refunds for events that have been postponed or rescheduled due to the pandemic.

The health crisis is and will continue to affect many industries, said Smith.

“I don’t know that we will ever see this again, just because of the pervasiveness of the problem. It really infects everything.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Most Read