A lawsuit filed as a result of a Moncton nurse allegedly administering oxytocin, a labour-inducing drug, to women without their consent was heard in Moncton’s Court of Queen’s Bench on Tuesday.
The representative plaintiff, Jayde Scott, launched the lawsuit in April against the Horizon Health Network and Nicole Ruest, a former nurse at the Moncton Hospital, alleging the defendants are “liable in negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and vicarious liability for the inappropriate administration of oxytocin,” according to court documents.
Scott alleges the health authority is “vicariously liable” for Ruest’s actions, and is alleging Ruest “used her position as an obstetric nurse to administer oxytocin to mothers who were in labour in the hospital without their knowledge or consent.”
She eventually had to undergo an emergency caesarean section (C-section), according to the statement of claim and the statement of defence from the hospital, before giving birth to twins in March 2019.
Both the health authority and Ruest have filed statements of defence and cross-claims.
“The defendant hospital states that it is not vicariously liable for any nurse who undertakes deliberate actions outside the scope of their practice and without the knowledge or consent of attending physicians,” the hospital’s statement says.
Ruest denies the allegations in her statement of defence, saying she “provided nursing care that met or exceeded the applicable stand of care.”
Scott and her lawyers filed for a class-action lawsuit, although it has yet to be certified.
John McKiggan, a lawyer for Scott and other proposed class members, told reporters outside of court that “our firms have been contacted by hundreds of mothers who have expressed concern about whether or not they may be or may have been impacted.”
Tuesday’s hearing was an argument from the plaintiff’s lawyers, who are seeking affidavits of documents listing all documents in their possession or control that are relevant to the certification of the lawsuit.
“This type of motion is rare,” McKiggan acknowledged to reporters. “We feel this situation is unique because of the public statements that were made by the hospital and then the defence that they’ve filed, which refutes those statements.”
“We think that there’s information that is going to be relevant to the certification motion and that will assist the court,” he said.
Lawyers for Ruest and the health network argued those documents are not required before the certification hearing and asked Chief Justice Tracey DeWare, who is presiding over the case, to dismiss the motion.
“Pre-certification disclosure is exceptional and is not going to happen before certification,” stated Brookelyn Kirkham, the lawyer representing Ruest.
DeWare said she would have a decision by the end of February as to whether the documents need to be provided prior to certification.
While no firm date was set aside for a certification hearing, dates in December 2020 and January 2021 were discussed as possibilities after the parties agreed that anything in November could be too soon.
McKiggan also told reporters that certification is the “big hurdle” in class-action lawsuits.
“If a class action is certified, the parties tend to come to their senses and find a way to resolve it,” he told reporters. “It’s quite frankly rare for there to be common issues trials after a class action has been certified.”
Scott, the representative plaintiff, is seeking an apology and declaration of legal responsibility of the hospital for the alleged actions of Ruest, damages, a validation and compensation program to compensate the class members, and more.
Neither the lawyer for the hospital nor Ruest would speak to Global News following the hearing Tuesday.
In November, Codiac RCMP confirmed someone had been arrested in connection with the case of alleged inappropriate administering of oxytocin, but wouldn’t confirm the identity of the person because charges had not yet been laid. That person is due in court May 21.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.