New Brunswick

'Hundreds of mothers' expressing concern over misuse of labour-inducing drug, says lawyer

Lawyers representing women involved in a proposed class action lawsuit against Moncton nurse, Nicole Ruest, and Horizon Health Network said "hundreds of mothers" have now contacted them. 

Lawyers involved in class action lawsuit confirm nurse Nicole Ruest also under criminal investigation

Registered nurse Nicole Ruest began working at the Moncton Hospital in the labour and delivery ward in 2010. Ruest was fired in March 2019, after women at the Moncton Hospital were allegedly administered the labour-inducing hormone, oxytocin, without their consent.    (Instagram)

Lawyers representing women involved in a proposed class-action lawsuit against Moncton nurse Nicole Ruest and Horizon Health Network said in court Tuesday that "hundreds of mothers" have now contacted them. 

Ruest was fired last March after women at the Moncton Hospital were allegedly administered labour-inducing Oxytocin without their consent. An internal investigation by Horizon Health found two women required urgent C-sections after receiving the hormone.

A proposed class action lawsuit was launched against the Horizon Health Network and Ruest on behalf of women who were allegedly "inappropriately" given the labour-inducing drug at the hospital in April.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed by the Halifax-based firm McKiggan Hebert and Fidelis of Moncton. Mathieu Picard, left, and John McKiggan were in a Moncton courtroom Tuesday to argue they should have access to the Moncton Hospital's records before the suit is certified. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

John McKiggan of McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, and Mathieu Picard of Fidelis Law are representing the women. 

McKiggan said mothers continue to contact their offices about joining the suit.

"Not every mom that underwent an emergency C-section at the hospital is ultimately going to be found to be a class member if this case is certified."

He was in court Tuesday to ask for access to the hospital's records related to its internal investigation.

McKiggan wants to know how many women might have been affected.

Lawyers for Horizon Health argued against the release of the records. Horizon's representatives said it's too soon in the process to disclose that information.  

Jayde Scott is the representative plaintiff of the proposed class-action lawsuit. Scott was 38 weeks and three days pregnant with twins when she had an emergency C-section after allegedly being given oxytocin without her consent by Ruest, according to the statement of claim. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

Ruest's lawyer, Brookelyn Kirkham, agreed.

"There is an important interest here from the perspective of Ms. Ruest — there is an ongoing criminal investigation," Kirkham said. 

McKiggan responded to that argument later in the hearing. 

"I am mindful that Ms. Ruest is facing criminal charges," he said. "I do understand she has a right against self-incrimination … but that has no impact, that's not relevant at all to the hospital's obligations to produce [information]."

Codiac Regional RCMP previously said a person was arrested Nov. 25 in connection with the case, questioned and released with a promise to appear in court in May 2020. However, as the person had not yet been charged, police did not name them. 

The lawsuit

The class action lawsuit claims Ruest is directly liable to the women for her actions and Horizon is directly liable for its negligence and vicariously liable as Ruest's employer and supervisor for 15 years.

The Moncton Hospital is named in the proposed suit along with Ruest. (CBC)

According to the statement of claim, the Moncton Hospital allegedly knew that it had a "suspiciously" high rate of emergency C-sections and instrument-assisted deliveries by forceps or vacuum, but failed to investigate.

It could take as long as a year to determine whether the class action lawsuit will be certified and can move ahead.

Ruest is scheduled to appear in court in relation to the criminal charges in May.

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.

with files from Shane Magee