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Coronavirus: $50M class-action lawsuit application filed against long-term care home operator

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health officials provide breakdown of COVID-19 pandemic on long-term care homes
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario health officials Dr. David Williams and Dr. Barbara Yaffe provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province on Wednesday. Dr. Williams said the numbers involving long-term care homes may increase over the coming days days with test results still incoming in from some care homes. (April 29)

A Toronto-based law firm has filed an application for a $50-million class-action lawsuit on behalf of two families against Revera Inc. over the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a statement issued by Diamond and Diamond Lawyers, the firm called the application Canada’s largest COVID-19 injury lawsuit.

The application was filed on behalf of Peter Masucci and Tonino Ricci, whose mothers lived in a Revera-owned facility.

READ MORE: Ontario’s patient ombudsman says complaints from long-term care homes signal crisis

“The plaintiffs allege that the facilities lacked proper sanitation protocols as well as adequate testing,” the statement said.

“The action also alleges that measures to keep residents safe were not properly disseminated to residents and their families.”

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Masucci said in a statement that he believed there are more victims.

“They simply didn’t do enough for their staff, or in testing rollout or isolation of infected individuals,” he said.

Darryl Singer, the head of commercial and civil litigation, went on to say they believe the company was “negligent” in protecting residents at its Ontario facilities.

“The elderly are the most vulnerable in society and they rely on the care and assistance of professionals, whom they pay, to ensure their safety,” he wrote.

Larry Roberts, a senior manager of corporate affairs for Revera, told Global News in a statement on Thursday that the company is reviewing the application and will “respond in an appropriate way at the proper time.”

“Right now, we are focusing our efforts on caring for our residents and protecting our residents and employees from the pandemic,” he wrote.

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“We offer our most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the people we have lost to COVID-19.”

What’s involved in a class-action lawsuit and could it be successful?

When asked about the proposed class-action lawsuit, Jasminka Kalajdzic, an associate professor and class-action clinic director with the University of Windsor, said it’s hard to tell if it will be successful. However, she said there are past precedents to look at.

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In 2009, she said there was a successful class-action lawsuit in Toronto where there was an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. In that instance, she said 135 people were awarded $1.2 million in a settlement.

As for the proposed $50-million figure, she said, in the end, it’s unlikely it will be that exact total as settlements can be reached.

“Usually these cases involve a compensation scheme that includes a range, so people who may have mild cases will obviously be entitled to less money than those who suffered really grave harm,” Kalajdzic said.

Since the class-action lawsuit is representative of a class of people, she said the named plaintiffs will be front and centre. Others who join on will be mostly in the background.

However, if the lawsuit proceeds and is ultimately successful, others who sign on will need to get involved for a potential disbursement of money.

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READ MORE: Ontario to test all long term care residents, staff for COVID-19

Kalajdzic said since the lawsuit alleges negligence, the plaintiffs will have to show Revera failed to meet a standard of care.

For example, factors that might be considered include if there was a pandemic plan in place, was there adequate personal protective equipment, were part-time staff converted to full-time staff to prevent working in different homes and was there an increase in cleaning.

“All of these facts will have to come to light and that will determine both what was the standard of care, what was reasonable in the circumstances among health-care facilities and did these defendants meet that standard of care,” she said.

Kalajdzic also noted a large number of long-term care homes, to date, haven’t experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.

When it comes to a potential response, she said it will likely be cited that COVID-19 was an extraordinary event that couldn’t have been predicted.

READ MORE: Canadian military arrives at 5 Ontario long-term care homes struggling with COVID-19

The allegations against Revera have not been proven in court and the application still needs to be certified. A spokesperson for Diamond and Diamond lawyers said the certification process typically can take up to 18 months to certify.

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According to the Revera website, the company and its partners operate more than 500 properties in North America and in the United Kingdom.

Long-term care homes across Ontario have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

As of Thursday, the provincial government reported 163 outbreaks in long-term care facilities. There were 835 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 of long-term care home residents. The total number of deaths for all age groups in Ontario is 1,082.

The province’s ministry of long-term care also reported 2,614 residents and 1,430 staff have tested positive for coronavirus.