Thomson Rogers has issued a class action proceeding claiming $15 million in damages on behalf of residents of Extendicare West End Villa and their families.
Extendicare West End Villa (“West End Villa”) is a long-term care home owned by Extendicare (Canada) Inc., located in Ottawa, Ontario. At least 16 residents at West End Villa have died as a result of contracting COVID-19 and related illnesses.
One of the representative plaintiffs is Suzanne Zagallai. Suzanne’s mother, Peggy, is a resident at West End Villa. Peggy contracted COVID-19 while residing in a shared bedroom at West End Villa and continues to suffer from on-going illness. Suzanne and Peggy represent the residents and family members of the victims who have contracted COVID-19 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak at West End Villa.
The outbreak at West End Villa was declared on August 30, 2020. It is alleged that, despite having ample time to properly implement an infection prevention and control program, West End Villa failed to provide personal protective equipment (“PPE”) to West End Villa’s staff, as well as to ensure there was an adequate number of staff. It is also alleged that West End Villa failed to implement screening measures of its staff and basic social distancing practices.
The Ottawa Hospital was made interim manager of West End Villa on September 18, 2020. When asked about the outbreak at West End Villa, Premier Doug Ford stated: “We’ve sent in the hospital to take over the long-term care, but the ownership of these long-term care companies, they have to take responsibility. And I’m calling out Extendicare. They have to take responsibility“.
On September 19, 2020, CBC published an article documenting allegations by a West End Villa employee. The employee alleged that the outbreak at West End Villa could have been avoided if Extendicare provided adequate PPE, which it has failed to do throughout the pandemic.
In a Press Release dated May 14, 2020, Extendicare declared $10.7 million in dividends to be paid to its shareholders so far in 2020. A Huffington Post article published on June 11, 2020 reported that Extendicare spent only $300,000 of its own money on its response to COVID-19.
“This is the sixth action Thomson Rogers has advanced on behalf of residents of a long-term care home in Ontario. It is unacceptable that six months after the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared and after we have lost so many elderly victims, that the same issues continue to repeat themselves at some homes. The families of the West End Villa residents are frustrated and upset that their loved ones are suffering and deserve answers.” said Stephen Birman, a partner involved in the class actions.
This class action was issued on September 30, 2020, prior to the Class Proceedings Act, 1992 amendments coming into force on October 1, 2020. The amendments are expected to make it more difficult for class actions, such as those against long-term care homes, to be certified and therefore to proceed. These amendments will pose significant hurdles for individuals, especially our vulnerable seniors, to access justice and hold for-profit corporations accountable going forward.
Suzanne, Peggy and their family, as well as other families of the victims and survivors of West End Villa, seek compensation for their tragic losses. They hope that the independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system and the proposed class action will result in meaningful change to ensure that a tragedy like this is never repeated in Ontario’s vulnerable long-term care population.