COVID-19 patients, families launch class-action lawsuit effort over Edmonton care home outbreak
Good Samaritan Society says it can't comment on active litigation
Residents and families of residents of an Edmonton care centre where 32 people have died of COVID-19 have launched an effort to bring a $20 million class-action lawsuit against the Good Samaritan Society.
The plaintiffs — a group of Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre residents and their families — allege that negligence and deficiencies in care contributed to residents contracting and in some cases dying of COVID-19.
None of the allegations made in the filed statement of claim have been proven in court.
The 18-page claim filed with Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton on Aug. 12 argues that the Good Samaritan Society (GSS) ought to pay millions in damages to the plaintiffs over alleged "egregious, outrageous and unlawful conduct of GSS and, in particular, their callous disregard for the health and lives of frail, elderly patients."
Lawyer Basil Bansal is representing the group. He said there are roughly 80 people involved so far, but that his firm is still receiving calls and emails from others identifying themselves.
Bansal alleges that problems began with poor preparation to respond to a possible outbreak, but said the main issue was with mishandling isolation within the facility as cases occurred.
"If isolation was done adequately, the numbers may have been less or avoided altogether," he said.
He said the purpose of the lawsuit is twofold: to get compensation for families and residents who have endured pain and suffering, and to trigger systemic change to improve the level of care and safety in seniors' living facilities generally.
"At the end of the day this is someone's home, and they're paying to be there so they're entitled to safety. I think safety measures have failed, and the sheer volume of people affected? That's where the problem arises," he said.
The statement of claim alleges a number of allegations about breakdowns and deficiencies in the centre's level of care for residents, and in the ongoing response to COVID-19. In order to proceed, the lawsuit would have to be certified as a class-action suit.
"GSS is well aware that their drive to maximize corporate profits comes at a cost of poor resident care, injuries, serious pain and suffering, and premature, painful death to the residents of the GSS," the claim alleges.
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As of Sept. 5, there had been 32 deaths, with seven active cases in residents and two in staff at the Southgate care centre. According to the centre's own reporting, 40 residents and 31 employees have recovered from bouts with the virus. The outbreak at the facility at 4225 107th St. was first declared on June 13, and is considered the deadliest outbreak care centre outbreak in Alberta.
The latest death comes nearly two weeks since two previous were reported on Aug. 23. Twenty-three people had died due to the outbreak as of the claim's filing on Aug. 12.
In response to a request for an interview, Michelle, Bonnici, Good Samaritan interim president and CEO, said the society has received the statement of claim.
"Since this is considered active litigation, I am sure you can appreciate that we are not in a position to make any further comment," Bonnici said in an emailed statement.
In previous updates, Bonnici and Alberta Health shared that the centre has worked with Alberta Health Services in an attempt to curb the spread through reduced contact, increased sanitization and enhanced testing.
The centre cancelled outdoor visits and brought in additional cleaning staff. It screens employees and residents twice a day.
AHS had considered taking over day-to-day operations of the facility in mid-July, but decided the move was not necessary.