Hamilton

$30M lawsuit claims Rosslyn failed residents before and during COVID-19 pandemic

A Toronto law firm has filed to launch a class action lawsuit against a Hamilton long-term care home for its handling of a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 22 staff members and 64 residents, 16 of whom died.

The statement of claim, which hasn't been certified, cites regulatory inspections from as far back as 2016

A memorial adorns a pole across the street from the Rosslyn Retirement Residence. It's made up of 16 crosses, one for each of the residents of the home who have died of COVID-19. The home is now the subject of a class action lawsuit. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

A Toronto law firm has filed to launch a class action lawsuit against a Hamilton long-term care home for its handling of a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 22 staff members and 64 residents, 16 of whom died.

The statement of claim filed by Gary Will of Will Davidson LLP alleges the Rosslyn Retirement Residence didn't do enough to protect its residents, even before the pandemic, and didn't do enough to prevent the virus from spreading when it arrived.

The suit asks for $20 million for negligence, breach of contract, and wrongful death. It is also seeking $10 million for damages.

"When COVID-19 infections started in March, this home was not prepared and their vulnerable residents paid the price," Will said in a statement.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

Robert Brown, a lawyer who has previously represented the Rosslyn, was not immediately available for comment.

Will told CBC News there has been no statement of defence and no certification of the claim yet.

The claim points to provincial guidance from Jan. 31, 2020, which warned long-term care residents faced more risk and advised staff to use more hand sanitizer and masks. On Mar. 28, the province issued an emergency order to stop organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people.

Despite this, the claim alleges, the Rosslyn never placed restrictions on where residents could go and who could visit them. It states many residents ate together, some of whom may have been COVID-19 positive.

A paramedic pushes a stretcher into the Rosslyn Retirement Residence on May 15. Health-care staff spent the next eight hours transferring residents from the home to hospital. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The claim says staff lacked training and personal protective equipment (PPE), and staffing shortages led to residents missing out on basic necessities.

In mid-May, the entire home was emptied because of the outbreak. That same month, the claim notes the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) filed a report stating staff at the home lacked training around infection prevention and control and weren't provided with adequate PPE.

The claim also lists multiple RHRA inspections since 2016 which it says show non-compliance. Previous inspections, the claim alleges, have found black mould and utensils covered in mouse droppings.

RHRA revoked the Rosslyn's licence on June 15 after it was evacuated, with an order that described a situation where cost-cutting was the priority, nursing staff were intimidated by an administrator and a medication room was so crammed with trash it took days to clear.

The home is associated with the Martino family, which owned the Royal Crest Lifecare chain of nursing homes that went bankrupt in 2003.

Home appealed decision

The home appealed that decision, calling it "unfair" and citing what it called "serious errors in law and fact."

RHRA has also issued orders revoking the licences of six other homes connected to the Martino families.

Alexander Pietak, a resident at the Rosslyn, died of COVID-19 on May 30, 2020 at 95-years-old. His son, Henry Pietak, is the representative plaintiff. (Submitted by Will Davidson LLP)

Henry Pietak is the representative plaintiff in the lawsuit that includes residents who got COVID-19, their families, and anyone who got infected in the facility.

His 95-year-old father, Alexander, died on Mar. 30 due to COVID-19.

"The spread of COVID-19 at Rosslyn was a needless tragedy ... and should never be allowed to happen again in the future," Will said.

With files from Dan Taekema

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