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COVID-19: a class action authorized for negligence in long-term care | Coronavirus: the situation in Ontario

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Relatives of seniors who died in long-term care homes demonstrated in front of Queen's Park on June 23, 2020.

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Ontario Court of Appeal allows class action lawsuit to proceed against Minister of Long-Term Care for alleged negligence in government's response to COVID-19. p>

All four primary plaintiffs lost their parents to COVID-19 or related complications in 2020.

They allege that although the province knew in late January of that year that long-term care homes were particularly vulnerable to the virus, the government enacted protective measures far too late.

They claim, in statements that have not been proven in court, that thousands of deaths and illnesses could have been avoided if the government had acted earlier.

A judge in the Superior Court, a lower court, certified the class action against the Minister of Long-Term Care, but did not authorize it for several other reasons.

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The government appealed this certification, and the plaintiffs also appealed the decision not to certify a class action on other grounds, including against the Minister of Health and the province's chief medical officer of health. /p>

In a decision rendered on February 6 (New window), the Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court's decision.

Arguably, the mandate of the Ministry of Long-Term Care is distinct from that of the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Court of Appeal says in its decision.

Previous cases have held that the mandates of the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health are to act in the general public interest and are not focused on protecting the interests of specific individuals. , while the Long-Term Care Homes Act aims to protect residents of the establishments, indicates the Court.

The appellants' attempt to distinguish Ministry of Long-Term Care's mandate to establish an obligation to treat long-term care home residents may not prevail in a judgment on the merits, the court wrote

It would be inappropriate at this stage to conclusively conclude that the appellants' argument is certain to fail, the Court asserts.

The Department of Long-Term Care was established in 2019. It was previously part of the Ministry of Health.

There has not yet been an authoritative judicial decision on whether this recent change in ministerial responsibilities and the fact of Having a separate minister for long-term care changes the analysis of the duty of care applicable to the Ministry of Health and the chief medical officer of health, the Court wrote.

The Ontario Ministry of Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With information from The Canadian Press

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