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

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

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged with criminal negligence in Coquihalla crash is accused of ignoring smoking brakes

Just before the crash the smoking truck seen entering Zopkios brake check and leaving shortly after

Dr. Andy Edelson (front left) and Ken Selvaraja hold the cheque, with (from left to right) Jim Hinds president of Rotary Club of Mission, Judith Ray, chair of MATH and Lloyd Rash, Mission rotarian in the back.
Funds raised for CT scanner feasibility study at Mission Memorial Hospital

Ken Selvaraja and Lanka Jewels raise $39,000 of $70,000 needed through pendant raffle

Kathleen Gros will be helping local creatives explore the intersection of words and pictures through comic books in an upcoming online workshop.
Vancouver graphic novelist to share skills in online workshop with Agassiz Library

Kathleen Gros will be leading the Magical World of Words and Pictures workshop on March 6

The last three wild northern spotted owls live near the Spuzzum Watershed outside of Hope. The province recently ordered a halt to logging for at least a year to give the owls a chance to survive.  (Photo/Jared Hobbs)
Logging halted in northern spotted owl habitat near Hope

Halt will last at least a year, gives time to formulate survival plan for Northern Spotted Owl

The Rocket Science S.T.E.M. camp will run virtually during spring break. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford Airshow, Gearbots Educational Resources launch Rocket Science camp

Virtual format of camp open to students aged nine and up, will run during spring break

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Shaelene Keeler Bell. (Facebook)
Candlelight vigil planned for Chilliwack mother missing for four weeks

Virtual event to ‘spread some light’ for 23-year-old Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Most Read