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 possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Metro Creative Connection Photo.
Mission council decides to revert back to ‘lifetime’ fire-pit permits

District moving towards restriction, rather than prohibition, of backyard burns

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows’ NDP incumbent Lisa Beare, believes Reese Witherspoon – seen here in the series “The Morning Show,” could best play her on the big screen. (Special to The News Apple TV+/TNS)
Maple Ridge candidates cast themselves in dramatic comedies

ELECTION LEVITY: MLA hopefuls reveal who should play them on the silver screen

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read