$25M class action lawsuit filed against McKenzie Towne care centre operators
Published Wednesday, May 13, 2020 12:41PM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, May 13, 2020 9:16PM MDT
CALGARY -- A $25 million class action lawsuit has been filed against Revera Inc. — the company that runs the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre — alleging negligence and a failure to follow proper protocols in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed a number of its residents' lives.
The lawsuit was filed in Calgary on Tuesday by James H. Brown and Associates and Guardian Law.
"The loss of life and terrible impact on the residents and families seen in this facility should have been avoided," read a joint statement from the law firms.
"In our investigation, we have seen negligence and a failure to act. It is tragic that the families of these individuals have lost loved ones to COVID-19 in this manner. Our efforts in this class action will hopefully bring justice and accountability."
The suit is seeking $15 million in general damages as well as $5 million for special damages and $5 million for punitive damages.
The statement of claim lists Marijke Laberge as the representative plaintiff.
The suit says her mother moved into McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre on Feb. 25. On March 14, Marijke was told she could no longer visit her because of the pandemic. Her mother was tested on March 25 and, three days later, she was told the result had come back positive.
Marijke's mother died on April 4 due to COVID-19.
Nurses and workers 'went through absolute hell'
Brian Van Vliet’s parents both live at the facility. His 93-year-old father tested positive for COVID but later recovered.
He says he wants no part in the lawsuit, praising the communication and sacrifice of the care workers there.
“I had calls that were nurses that were in tears,” he says. “The nurses - all the workers - that were working at the home went through absolute hell at the time.”
The situation at McKenzie Towne became Alberta’s worst care home outbreak with 21 deaths, 62 cases in residents and 44 cases among staff. Two additional residents had presumptive cases.
On March 31, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the facility had been slow to respond to public health protocols.
"In the case of McKenzie Towne, unfortunately, that outbreak protocol seems to not have been implemented immediately so there does seem to have been a significant amount of exposure,” Hinshaw said at the time.
“And so really the critical piece of response in that particular outbreak is making sure that everything is done to prevent any further exposure."
Revera Living issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the lawsuit:
We extend our deepest sympathies to the Laberge family, as well as to all the families and friends of residents and employees affected by COVID-19, at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating situation for the entire senior care sector across Canada, and around the world. COVID-19 is a virulent virus and as a global community we are learning more about it every day.
We are currently reviewing the class action lawsuit which was forwarded to us by media outlets and will respond in due course. That said, as I am sure you can appreciate, since this is a matter before the courts, we will not be able to speak to the specifics of the lawsuit, but I can say that we will approach it as we do any situation like this: with respect for the system and for all parties involved.
We are grateful to our dedicated employees and for the care they provide. They are among the heroes of this pandemic. Our staff provide comfort, care and compassion every day - to mothers, fathers, grandparents - and we are doing everything we can to help them do this work.
Our homes regularly meet or exceed government standards. We have been following government directives since the outset of the pandemic and we have been working closely with government partners as the pandemic has progressed.
We have been encouraged by the outpouring of support we have been getting from the communities we serve, and from the families and friends of our residents in these difficult times.
Dozens of residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 20 residents have died during the outbreak.
The allegations outlined in the lawsuit have not been tried in court.