Another million-dollar lawsuit filed against Ontario's worst-hit nursing home for alleged neglect
George Morrison, a resident at Orchard Villa long-term care home, died on May 3, 2020 due to COVID-19. (Supplied)
TORONTO -- A second family has filed a lawsuit against Ontario’s worst-hit nursing home for alleged negligence and failing to protect residents from COVID-19.
The second lawsuit was filed at the Ontario Superior Court on Friday against Southbridge Care Homes and its 294-bed Orchard Villa long-term care and retirement home, where the novel coronavirus infected at least 96 staff and 225 residents and killed at least 74 people.
In the 10-page statement of claim, obtained by CTV News Toronto, June Morrison, the daughter of former resident George Morrison, alleges that his death occurred as a “direct result” of negligence and breach of contract.
“Dad and I had a very strong bond and love for one another very early on. As a wee lass and his only daughter, he was my handsome father and my hero,” June Morrison told CTV News Toronto in a statement on Friday.
“We've worked through the challenges of ageing with Alzheimer’s and dementia; with me becoming very protective of my dad.
“I believed he would have made it to his 96th birthday in September … Instead, he suffered for several weeks in ways that upset me, and I promised him on his deathbed that I would right the wrongs for him. I would get justice for him.”
The claim makes a series of allegations, including that the Pickering, Ont. home failed to follow proper procedures to protect residents, failed to properly care for George Morrison and failed to communicate with his family about his condition.
Much of the allegations against the home are similar to those in the first lawsuit filed on Monday by the family of 86-year-old Paul Parkes, who died at Orchard Villa on April 15.
Toronto law firm Howie, Sacks and Henry LLP filed both lawsuits on behalf of the families. The first one is seeking more than $1.5 million in damages, while the second is seeking $1 million in damages.
“I think at the front of this we have a broken system in long-term care that long proceeded COVID-19 that is being absolutely broken by this pandemic,” the firm’s lawyer Melissa Miller told CTV News Toronto earlier this week.
“These homes had an obligation within the legislation and the regulations to have in place proper protocols for emergency situations and outbreaks and it just doesn't look like that was done.”
Orchard Villa’s Executive Director Jason Gay responded to CTV News Toronto request for comment Friday on the allegations, which have not been proven in court.
“Our sincere condolences are with Mr. Morrison's family at this very difficult time. We will respond to this claim in due course through the legal process,” he said. “Our focus continues to be on the care, health and safety of our residents during this unprecedented time.”
What happened to George Morrison?
George Morrison was a resident at the home since October 2017. The 95-year-old suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as dementia.
On March 14, the claim alleges that the home announced it was going into lockdown and no visitors were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The claim alleges that June Morrison learned that there was an actual COVID-19 outbreak at the home on April 18 through the media.
“June was able to speak with her father on the telephone after that. June became aware on April 23, 2020 that her father’s condition was deteriorating and he was showing symptoms of COVID-19,” the claim states.
“George was transferred to hospital on April 27, 2020. He was confirmed positive for COVID-19 on April 29, 2020. George passed away in the hospital due to COVID-19 on May 3, 2020.”
The claim alleges that the home failed to protect George Morrison and the other residents at the home due to “inadequate preventative and response measures to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“As a result of the defendants’ negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, George contracted COVID-19,” the claim alleges.
“June sustained a loss of guidance, care and companionship from George that she might reasonably have expected to receive from him had he not contracted COVID-19 and died.”
The claim alleges that the home failed to identify that George Morrison was infected with COVID-19 within a “reasonable time” and that they failed to “properly treat” him once infected.
The claim further alleges that the home failed to “adequately communicate” with the family about George Morrison’s condition when he first started showing symptoms and when he tested positive.
“They failed to perform regular assessments to ensure that any changes in George’s condition were observed, recorded, reported to other staff/supervisors and/or the physician in charge,” the claim alleges.
“They failed to ensure that legislated requirements were followed [and] they failed to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of George under their custody and supervision.
The claim alleges that the home failed to have “due concern” for the physical and psychological “condition and safety” of the residents, including George Morrison.
“They failed to have a proper system or any system in place to ensure that George would be safe while at the home,” the lawsuit alleges.
“They neglected George … In the treatment, care and supervision of George, they fell below the reasonable standard of care required in the circumstances, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
How the virus allegedly spread at the home
The allegations in the claim extend to how Orchard Villa responded to the outbreak and the care of residents as a whole at the facility.
According to the claim, the home allegedly failed to hire “sufficient” staff to take care of residents, failed to provide proper training and supervision for employees, and failed to enforce a code of conduct.
It further alleges the home failed to implement an "adequate COVID-19 response plan," failed to communicate with families regarding presumptive positive cases of the virus and failed to conduct proper visitor screening.
“They failed to put into a place an adequate visitor policy, or have a visitor policy at all, within a reasonable timeframe,” the legal document alleges.
“They failed to implement adequate sanitary measures to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 between the staff and the residents of the home.”
The claim also alleges that the home did not "adequately supply" or use personal protective equipment (PPE) for visitors, residents and staff and permitted infected visitors and staff to enter the home.
“They knew or ought to have known that the failure to adequately supply or use PPE for visitors, residents and staff would be a danger to the residents,” the claim states.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that the homes failed to implement “adequate physical distancing and isolation measures within a reasonable time frame” and failed to “properly identify and isolate infected residents.”