As the Province nears the completion of the sixth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, litigation related to COVID-19 has started to move forward in courts and tribunals. Two class action lawsuits relating to the long-term care sector are currently underway may have relevance to other provincially funded and regulated congregate care organizations.
A class action lawsuit on behalf of the residents of 96 long-term care homes in Ontario has been commenced, naming Sienna Senior Living Inc and the City of Toronto as representative defendants, and the addition of the Province of Ontario pending. The lawsuit alleges that inaction on the part of the long term care homes, the City of Toronto, and the Province cost lives and harmed many more. It alleges that the defendants ignored the signs of the pandemic and failed to undertake timely and reasonable infection control measures in a high-risk setting.
As an interesting twist, the lawsuit also claims that the defendants’ inadequate response breached the section 7 Charter rights of the plaintiffs to life and security of the person. This case has not been decided yet, and could help define the scope of the standard of care owed by congregate care settings to the people they support with respect to COVID-19 and other infectious disease risks.
At the same time, a separate class action lawsuit is currently being advanced against the Province directly for its allegedly lax oversight of the long-term care sector and its inadequate response to the pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that the Province breached a duty of care owed to long-term care residents, and points to the following alleged failures:
- A long-standing chronic staff shortage in the sector;
- Failure of the Province to act soon enough to stop staff from working in multiple long-term care facilities (risking cross-transmission);
- Failure of the Province to provide health care workers in long-term care homes with sufficient personal protective equipment; and
- Failure to ensure that COVID-19-positive residents were separated from those who did not have the virus.
In particular, the lawsuit contrasts the long-term care response with the Province’s response to the needs of hospitals (which supposedly received much more Provincial support). This lawsuit has also not yet come to a decision, but will be critical for determining the degree of Provincial liability (if any) for the early response to COVID-19 in the long-term care sector (and perhaps other provincially funded and regulated congregate care settings).
PooranLaw will continue to monitor legal developments related to COVID-19 litigation. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.