An application for a class action lawsuit has been filed in Quebec Superior Court against Residence Herron, a private long-term care home in Dorval, Quebec, a suburb in Montreal.

The class action lawsuit was commenced by the lead plaintiff, Barbara Schneider (“Barbara”), the daughter of 93-year-old Mary Schneider (“Mary”), who died at the Residence Herron on April 10, 2020.

The lawsuit demands compensation as follows:

  • $25,000 on behalf of the estate of the deceased individuals and the current residents of the Residence Herron; and
  • $10,000 for immediate family members of those residents that died or currently reside at Residence Herron.

The lawsuit also seeks $2 million in punitive damages for allegedly failing to respect the residents’ rights to personal security and dignity as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What Happened?

In February 2020, Mary Schneider (“Mary”) moved into Residence Herron after suffering a fall and recovering at Montreal General Hospital.  Her daughter, Barbara, agreed to pay $4,500 a month for her care and signed an agreement to this.

Mary could ambulate with a walker and feed herself, although she did require help getting dressed and with bathing.

Barbara spoke with her mother regularly and visited every other day until March 14, 2020 when Quebec barred all visitors from seniors’ residences due to concerns of spreading COVID-19.

Barbara spoke to her mother daily up until March 24, 2020.  After being unable to contact her mother, a nurse finally arranged a video chat.  Barbara was shocked to see that her mother was frail and gaunt. 

On April 8, 2020, Barbara learned that her mother had become infected with COVID-19.  Mary died two days later.  There were also 30 other residents that died at the home in less than a month.

The proposed class action lawsuit claims that the residents were denied their rights and were “subjected to neglect, mistreatment, pain and discomfort”.

Response From the Long Term Care Residence

Katasa Group, the operator of Residence Herron, is owned by Samir Chowieri and his three daughters.  The company runs seven long-term care facilities in Quebec.  The Chowieri family has advised that the staff at the Herron Residence had difficulty containing the virus and keep its employees working as they were facing a shortage of personal protective equipment for staff, despite their efforts and requests to the government to help obtain these necessary supplies.

According to Katherine Chowieri,

We did everything in our power, and we did everything to offer all services to each of the patients that we had – or each of our residents and offer the services.  We never ended a day without ensuring that services were rendered to each patient.

Katasa Group maintains that the regional health authority took over the operations of the private long-term care residence on March 29th and was in charge when most of the deaths transpired. 

In a statement, the regional health authority, the West Island CIUSSS, reported that it intervened on March 29th when it learned that the Residence Herron was severely understaffed and that residents lacked food and basic personal care.  They maintain that the owners of the home refused to co-operate and legal measures became necessary to gain access to medical records.  The regional health authority contends that it began managing Residence Herron on April 8.

Health Minister Danielle McCann is awaiting the results of three investigations that are currently taking place before commenting on the discrepancies made between the owners of Residence Herron and the regional health authority.  There are 31 recorded resident deaths since March 13, with at least five deaths being attributed directly to COVID-19.  According to Minister McCann, she has been told that the situation at Residence Herron is under control and that a team is on site from the health authority to provide proper care to all residents.

None of the allegations contained in the class action application have been proven in court.  The class-action lawsuit requires authorization by the court.  This will likely not take place until the legal system resumes its normal operation.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP will continue to follow the developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on long-term care facilities in Canada and will report on any updates in this blog.

At Cuming & Gillespie LLP we are committed to helping you and your loved ones.  If a member of your family has suffered serious injury or significant harm due to nursing home abuse or neglect, the personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP may be able to help you obtain financial compensation.  Our legal team will meet with you and evaluate your legal options to help you decide whether to pursue a claim.  Contact our knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers to learn what options are available at 403-571-0555 or online today.