By: Mike Anderson
The family of Sing Tong Choi, one of the 36 residents who died during the COVID-19 outbreak at the River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton, has filed a lawsuit against ATK Care Inc., the LTC home’s owner, for $1.45 million in damages.
The lawsuit alleges that ATK Care Inc. failed to protect the residents of the home, including Mr. Sing, “through inadequate preventative and responsive measures to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The plaintiffs, Mr. Sing’s wife and children, claim that his death occurred as a direct result of negligence and a breach of fiduciary duty by ATK Care Inc., which owed a duty of care to Mr. Sing and the other residents.
According to Melissa Miller, the lawyer who’s handling the case for Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP, a Toronto personal injury law firm, at least two other families will be filing lawsuits against ATK Care Inc. in the coming weeks.
“These families deserve to have accountability and justice for themselves,” said Ms. Miller, who has also brought lawsuits on behalf of 20 families against the Orchard Villa Retirement Residence in Pickering, one of Ontario’s hardest-hit LTC homes and the subject of a scathing report by the Canadian Armed Forces.
“If all of these families are successful in proving that the nursing homes fell below the standard of care. It’s going to be an indication to our government that they must do something about our system once and for all.”
According to the 11-page claim, filed on June 12, Mr. Sing died from complications of COVID-19 on May 14, after testing positive for the virus on May 6.
The claim alleges that River Glen Haven “did not properly physically distance residents as the outbreak spread from the second floor of the home to the third floor, where Sing resided.”
There was also a lack of communication between the home and the family members, which, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, is required by ATK Care Inc’s license:
“The home failed to communicate with Sing’s family and did not promptly notify his family members about the outbreak at the home, that he was experiencing symptoms or his condition.”
Another allegation against River Glen Haven is that “personal protection equipment (PPE) was not properly utilized by residents or the staff at the home.”
Moreover, the LTC home’s owners failed to provide adequate PPE to staff and did not train them on its proper use.
“As part of the legislation and the regulations, homes are required to have an infection protocol. They’re required to have someone who’s trained. They’re required to keep up with changing medical evidence,” said Ms. Miller.
“Not only was training potentially an issue, but you also have people that are already overworked and understaffed. It’s not the pandemic’s fault. It’s not COVID-19’s fault.”
These claims have yet to be proven in court, and ATK Care Inc. has 20 days from the court filing to issue a statement of defence.
According to Ms. Miller, the case may take several years, as there is a lot of evidence to review through discovery and the courts are backed up, as many civil cases were deferred due to the pandemic.
Another obstacle is potential provincial legislation that may protect the owners of LTC homes from being sued by family members of residents.
Ms. Miller sees this legislation as wrong-headed.
“Ford’s recent announcement that there might be some immunity is completely contrary to his comments about accountability being needed in our system. Families deserve to have justice. And our justice system is a different arm. It shouldn’t be dictated by politics,” she said.
“Filing a lawsuit is not a blank cheque. The plaintiffs have to prove that the nursing home fell below the stated standard of care in the circumstances. And by imposing any additional immunity, he’s not allowing our justice system to do its job.”
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