A class-action lawsuit can go ahead against the Quebec government on behalf of residents in public long-term care homes that had major COVID-19 outbreaks during the first year of the pandemic, the province’s superior court has decided.
Justice Donald Brisson authorized the legal action Monday after a lawyer seeking permission to bring the suit argued before the court last September.
The case’s lead plaintiff is Jean-Pierre Daubois. His 94-year-old mother Anna José Maquet died in April 2020 at a long-term care home in Laval during a COVID-19 outbreak that infected more than 200 residents. The centre had staff shortages during that time, a period in which 101 residents died.
“It’s a big victory for the families, this first step,” Daubois said about the judge’s authorization of the class action at a news conference on Tuesday.
“And we intend to continue because we want (the Quebec government) to be accountable for what they did and did not do.”
The lawsuit alleges the Quebec government’s failure to prepare for the novel coronavirus’ arrival as it began spreading in other parts of the world led to preventable deaths.
Get the latest Health IQ news.
Sent to your email, every week.
Daubois, for his part, said Tuesday he is looking for “accountability and for this to not happen again.”
“I’m still mad because it was avoidable,” Daubois said of his mother’s death.
The class action includes anyone who lived in long-term care centres — known in Quebec as CHSLDs — where at least 25 per cent of residents were affected by COVID-19 outbreaks between March 13, 2020, and March 20, 2021.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer Patrick Martin-Ménard estimates that includes more than 6,000 residents across the province. He said hundreds of people have reached out to him about their experience with nursing homes during the pandemic.
“It’s around 118 public CHSLDs,” Martin-Ménard said of how many long-term care homes are targeted by the class action.
The lawsuit is looking to obtain $100,000 in compensation for any resident who contracted the virus and $40,000 for any resident who didn’t get sick. This doesn’t include additional compensation for both groups’ families.
The suit is also seeking $10 million in punitive damages. It alleges that government decisions — including to move hospital patients into long-term care centres — led to more fatalities.
During the first two waves of the pandemic, more than 5,000 people died in CHSLDs. In November 2021, a report by the province’s ombudswoman said long-term care homes were mostly forgotten in the province’s early planning for COVID-19. Marie Rinfret said the Quebec government’s strategy was mostly hospital-centric and neglected the danger posed to vulnerable residents in CHSLDs.
Global News has reached out to Quebec’s Health Ministry for its response to the class action.
— with files from Global’s Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.