THUNDER BAY — A $160 million class action lawsuit against Southbridge Care Homes was expanded this month to cover all 24 of the company's facilities in Ontario including the Southbridge Roseview nursing home in Thunder Bay.
The Toronto law firm Will Davidson LLP originally filed a claim last spring in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at Southbridge's Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering, where more than 70 residents died.
"Since that time, there's been lots of other Southbridge homes affected by the pandemic, with infections and deaths, so we've expanded the Orchard Villa lawsuit to include these other homes, and most recently it was the home in Thunder Bay that had a very severe outbreak," managing partner Gary Will said Monday.
By the time the outbreak at Roseview was declared over on Feb. 6, twenty-three of its residents had died. Dozens of other residents and staff members were infected at various times.
Will said his law firm was contacted last month by a group of people whose loved ones had died at the Shuniah Street nursing home.
"We met with them, we learned their stories, we investigated the home, and after that we decided to expand the lawsuit to include the residents of Roseview."
The suit claims damages for negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the Ontario Human rights Code, and wrongful death.
Will said it's filed on behalf of not only the survivors of residents who passed away at various facilities, but also includes all others whose care was allegedly affected adversely because of the pandemic.
He charged that "no one has learned the lesson" of what occurred in March and April when the virus first showed up in Ontario nursing homes, saying they had "eleven months to prepare, but did not prepare and allowed infections to take control in other homes."
A judge has been appointed in Toronto to case-manage the suit, however, it has not yet been certified as a class action.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
Southbridge spokesperson Candace Chartier said Monday that "as the matter is currently before the courts, we will address the allegations through the proper legal challenges. Our residents are at the heart of everything we do, and we remain committed to ensuring that all of our residents receive a high standard of care."
In a statement last month the company said its first priority at Southbridge Roseview was to take care of its residents during an outbreak which it described as posing significant challenges.
It said the Thunder Bay nursing home had "superior medical oversight" compared with other homes in the province, including two doctors and two nurse practitioners on-site fulltime, along with overstaffing with registered nurses and registered nurse practitioners.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit declared the COVID-19 outbreak at Roseview on Nov. 18, 2020, after one staff member tested positive.
At the time, the TBDHU stated that prior to the outbreak, management at the home had already taken significant steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission of the virus in the home.
NOTE: The original version of this story has been updated to include a statement issued by Southbridge Roseview late Monday afternoon.