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

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Submitted
BC VOTES 2020: John Rustad re-elected in Nechako Lakes riding

The result is based on preliminary vote count and the final results will be available after Nov.6

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

The ‘new normal’ for hockey parents in Chilliwack and elsewhere in B.C., watching their kids from outside of the arena due to COVID-19 protocols. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hockey parents petition to be let back in the arena

Refused access due to pandemic protocols, parents are now applying pressure to loosen the rules

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of B.C. girl, 7, by accused mother was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Most Read