As COVID-19 continues to spread globally and the death toll continues to rise, many are looking to file lawsuits and seek compensation for illness, death, financial losses, and business, travel and school interruptions.

In Canada, there have been at least 17 class-action lawsuits filed.  As nursing homes across Canada became hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks, we lost many elderly Canadians to the deadly virus.  The Canadian Armed Forces were even brought in to help handle the outbreak at several institutions.  A number of nursing home class action lawsuits have been filed alleging the facilities’ failure to implement proper protective measure; failure to take measures to help stop the spread of the disease; failure to screen staff; amongst other allegations of negligence leading to the spread of infection throughout the facilities and the contraction of illness and in some cases death to the residents. A separate action was filed against an Ottawa lab alleging that nursing home residents were given false COVID-19 positive test results.

Class action lawsuits have also been filed against multiple businesses for financial losses suffered by customers, including:

  • event organizers such as StubHub Canada Ltd. and Ticketmaster, for refusing to issue refunds to Canadians who purchased tickets for events that were cancelled during the pandemic;
  • airlines such as Air Transat and Air Canada for refusing to refund travellers for flights cancelled due to COVID-19; 
  • educational institutions, such as the University of Victoria for failing to issue partial refunds for parking permits; and
  • insurance providers for refusing to pay businesses for losses related to the pandemic.

Employee Safety a Top Concern

One of the primary reasons for class actions in North America resulting from the pandemic has been outbreaks among employees at warehouses, plants and farms. Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been concentrated in locations such as meat-packing plants, farms with large populations of migrant workers across the country, and elsewhere. Employees and their families are bringing large-scale actions against employers who failed to secure the safety of their employees and put their health at risk, or worse.

Independent Claims May be a Better Option

While joining a large class action may seem like the best path forward if you’ve suffered health consequences or lost a family member as a result of an employer’s neglect, it may actually be more advantageous to opt-out and bring a claim independently. We previously discussed this in relation to claims against long-term care facilities, but with food production industries being an ongoing COVID-19 hotspot, it is worth reiterating some key points.

When it comes to a class action, it can be tempting to join because of the old adage, ‘strength in numbers’. Litigation can be an intimidating and even daunting prospect that takes time and money to resolve. However, class actions are not guaranteed, and even when they are successful, the proceeds are shared among hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs.

To retain proper control of the litigation strategy, and to obtain the most favourable benefit, we recommend considering the idea of bringing an independent claim instead. Many people do not realize that participating in an unsuccessful class action will often have the side effect of barring their right to bring a separate claim later if the outcome of the class action is not satisfactory. To ensure you are doing everything you can to see the most favourable outcome, we recommend considering all options with an experienced personal injury lawyer, who will be able to advise on your best chance for success.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP will continue to follow the developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and the progress of the lawsuits related to COVID-19 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 you or a member of your family has suffered serious injury through no fault of your own, 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.