Health Fitness

Quebec judge OK’s class-action suit over COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes

A Quebec judge has given the green light to a class-action lawsuit that alleges the Quebec government made a series of mistakes when the pandemic began that contributed to large outbreaks and thousands of deaths.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all residents of public long-term care homes (or CHSLDs as they’re called in Quebec) that experienced major COVID-19 outbreaks between March 13, 2020, and March 20, 2021. 

That means there are 118 long-term care homes included in the class-action lawsuit,  according to Patrick Martin-Ménard, the lawyer who pushed for the suit to be authorized. 

“What happened in March 2020 was not a storm in a blue sky,” the lawyer said during a news conference on Tuesday.

“We may not have known what COVID was, but we knew about the risks of a pandemic and we knew about the ways to get ready for one.”

The lawsuit in Superior Court alleges that the province’s response to the first two waves of COVID-19 was improvised and that a pre-existing pandemic plan was ignored until it was too late.

The suit seeks compensation of at least $100,000 for each member who was infected, $40,000 for class members who didn’t get sick and additional compensation for both groups’ families.

The class action also aims to obtain an extra $10 million in punitive damages, and it alleges that government decisions — including to move hospital patients into long-term care centres — led to additional deaths.

Jean-Pierre Daubois is the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff.

His mother, Anna José Maquet, 94, died at the Ste-Dorothée long-term care centre in Laval, Que., in April 2020. He said his mother suffered due to a lack of care.

Patrick Martin-Ménard, seen here speaking during a news conference in 2021, said the province ignored its own pandemic plan when in early 2020, when COVID-19 began circulating in Quebec. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

“When I saw the conditions in which my mother died, my first reflex was to call the coroner because to me it looked like criminal negligence,” Daubois said Tuesday.

More than 5,000 people died in Quebec’s long-term care centres during the period covered by the lawsuit.

Those deaths led to a public inquiry that was led by coroner Géhane Kamel.

In 2021, the inquiry heard testimony from 220 witnesses including government officials, long-term care home employees, and the loved ones of people who died.

Kamel issued 23 recommendations for the provincial government. 

The full list of the 118 CHSLDs included in the lawsuit is available here.

WATCH | Here’s some of the testimony about COVID-19 deaths in Quebec: 

‘They let them die’ at worst-hit long-term care homes, union rep tells inquest

An ongoing coroner’s inquest in Quebec is revisiting what happened in the spring of 2020 in seniors’ residences, where more than 60 per cent of the province’s COVID-19 deaths occurred.

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