$20M lawsuit says Niagara's Lundy Manor held a pub night during COVID-19

A Toronto law firm has filed to launch a class action lawsuit against a Niagara Falls long-term care home where 18 residents have died from COVID-19, saying the home had a pub night in the midst of the pandemic.

Irene Bobyk says she keeps expecting her mother, who lived at Lundy Manor and died April 9, to call any minute

The suit against Lundy Manor, which is owned by Oxford Living, asks for a combined $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages. (oxfordliving.ca)

A Toronto law firm has filed to launch a class action lawsuit against a Niagara Falls long-term care home where 18 residents have died from COVID-19, saying the home had a pub night in the midst of the pandemic.

The statement of claim filed by Gary Will of Will Davidson LLP says the Oxford Living home was lax on infection-prevention standards, holding card games, communal dining and group events even as health authorities warned otherwise. The suit asks for $20 million in damages.

"The owners of Lundy Manor failed to implement policies that were well known and obvious which would have prevented infection and saved lives," Will said in a statement.

"Some of the grieving families have lost both parents."

The claims haven't been tested in court. Tim Foster, vice-president of strategy and business development with Oxford Living, wouldn't comment, saying the company still hasn't seen the statement of claim. He also didn't respond to the claim that Lundy Manor had a pub night.

"She was so good hearted," says Irene Bobyk of her mother, Rose Bobyk-Sembay. Bobyk-Sembay paid about $2,800 a month to live at Lundy Manor. (Irene Bobyk)

Will said the claim has not yet been certified as a class action and COVID-19 has caused courts to temorarily stop hearing those applications. The firm will file an application when courts resume.

The claim cites provincial guidance as far back as Jan. 31 that warned long-term care residents were more at risk, and advised greater use of masks and hand sanitizer. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11. The next day, the suit says, Lundy Manor hosted a girls' basketball demonstration.

There have been numerous provincial directives since then. The claim says Lundy Manor didn't put physical distancing in place in its dining room fast enough. The March 28 pub night, it says, happened on the same day the province's chief medical officer of health used the Emergency Management and Preparedness Act to prohibit groups of more than five people.

The health unit declared an outbreak at Lundy Manor two days later, and by April 2, there were 13 confirmed cases there. The suit also says there were times when one nurse was on duty for the entire facility.

'She was so good hearted'

Irene Bobyk is the representative plaintiff in a pending suit that includes residents who got COVID-19, their families, and anyone whose illness can be traced back to the building. Her mom, Rose Bobyk-Sembay, died on April 9 at Niagara Health's St. Catharines hospital.

Bobyk doesn't believe her mom attended the pub night. She loved to socialize, though, and it's possible she attended another event at the home.

Bobyk-Sembay, 88, was well known in Niagara's Ukrainian community. Over the years, she sponsored 12 Ukrainian immigrants awaiting Canadian citizenship. She was also key to raising money for a new parish hall at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Niagara Falls. She was well known for her cooking, and made great pierogies and cabbage rolls. She also served as president of the church women's league.

Bobyk said her mother was an ambassador at Lundy Manor. When new residents arrived, she showed them around and helped them make friends.

"She was so good hearted," Bobyk said. "Her family was everything to her … She just loved being with people. She was always wanting to help."

'It makes me angry'

Every day, Bobyk said, she expects the phone to ring, and to answer and hear her mother's voice.

"[I] can't believe that this has actually happened."

Bobyk said the grief is harder because she couldn't be with her mother when she died. Only four people could attend the funeral. Everyone wore a mask. Friends went to the cemetery but most stayed in their cars.

"It makes me angry that she's gone," Bobyk said. And she's angry at the home.

"I wanted to make sure this class action suit was going to happen, and if that meant me being the person in the front, then that's the way it is."



Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca