Long-term care facilities (or seniors’ homes) have perhaps seen the greatest number of COVID-related class actions – within seven having been commenced in Canada to date:
- An Ontario class action has been commenced against a Niagara Falls retirement home where several residents have died from COVID-19. The representative plaintiffs allege that the facility failed to manage the outbreak adequately, including by failing to train staff properly, and by continuing to hold social nights for its residents following the outbreak of COVID-19.
- A second Ontario class action was commenced against a corporation that owns six long-term care facilities in Ontario. The claim alleges the company breached its duty of care by failing to ensure adequate staffing, failing to plan properly and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and failing to comply with public health guidance and directives.
- A third Ontario class action against another corporation with over two dozen Chartwell residences in Ontario. The proposed representative lost his mother when she contracted COVID-19 while living in one of the residences. The claim alleges systemic failures, including inadequate planning, screening, testing, staffing, and PPE.
- A fourth Ontario class action has been started against a company that operates over 130 long-term care homes across Canada, over their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The representative plaintiffs allege negligence and breach of contract. They claim that the defendants failed to implement appropriate protocols and procedures in the wake of the outbreak.
- In Alberta, a class action seeking $25 million in damages has been filed against this same company over its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility in Calgary. The claim alleges that the company was negligent and failed to follow proper protocols to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.
- A class action has been filed in Québec against a government-run long-term care facility, as well as the regional health authority that oversees the facility, where dozens have died from COVID-19. The claim alleges that employees of the facility were forced to work even though they were showing symptoms of COVID-19. The claim seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
- Also in Québec, a class action has been filed against another facility in Dorval over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The claim seeks compensation for the estates of deceased residents, current residents, and immediate family members. The representative plaintiffs allege an inadequate response by the facility to COVID-19, degrading and inhumane treatments of its residents, and a failure to respect the residents’ rights to personal security and dignity under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In the United States, where long-term care facilities have been the subject of similar claims, there has been some discussion as to whether the government should pass legislation protecting those companies from litigation. It will remain to be seen whether those lobbying for such legislative changes will succeed and whether there will be similar lobbying in Canada either for litigation against long-term care facilities specifically or in respect of COVID- 19 related litigation more broadly.