Edmonton·Updated

Alta. nursing home lawsuit OK'd by top court

A class-action lawsuit against the Alberta government for driving up nursing home fees has been given the green light by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Class action seeks $100M from province in nursing-home fee dispute

A class-action lawsuit against the Alberta government for driving up nursing home fees has been given the green light by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The top court ruled Thursday the son of a former long-term-care resident and the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society can sue the province on behalf of thousands of seniors in Alberta over a sudden rise in nursing home fees in 2003.

"Our clients couldn't be happier," said lawyer Allan Garber. "You have to remember the people we act for are elderly, chronically disabled, and the prospect of them advancing their own claim individually would be most unfair."

However, the ruling limits on what grounds the province can be sued.

The lawsuit can move forward on the allegations that seniors are paying for services that may be the government's responsibility, and that the charges may constitute discrimination against seniors because of their age and disabilities, said Garber.

Alberta also certified suit

The lawsuit initiated by James Darwish questions the amount his late mother, Johanna, was charged for living at an Edmonton seniors home.

Darwish claims the 40 per cent increase in long-term-care fees in Alberta over 18 months violated the Canada Health Act by artificially inflating accommodation fees to subsidize the cost of medical expenses.

The class action was certified by the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in 2008. The province appealed the decision, which was later upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The lawsuit seeks more than $100 million from the Alberta government and the former regional health authorities on behalf of thousands of seniors in long-term-care homes since 2003.

But Gaber is hoping the dispute will be resolved before what will be a long and expensive legal battle.

"I'm hopeful we can sit down and solve this some way," he said.