The applicants in a civil suit against the company that operates multiple Vancouver Island seniors’ homes and the provincial government will have to amend their submissions.
The plaintiffs launched their case against PR Seniors Housing Management Ltd., doing business as Retirement Concepts, Cedar Tree Investment Canada Inc., as well as against the province’s Ministry of Health.
“The plaintiffs claim that Retirement Concepts and Cedar Tree Investment Canada Ltd. abused, mistreated and/or neglected residents of their care homes in British Columbia and that the Province failed to supervise the care homes by failing to inspect and licence the facilities and permitting the contracting out of care services,” Madam Justice Catherine Murray’s wrote in her May 3 decision.
The hearings were held last September in Victoria.
In response to the claims, the defendants have objected to parts of several affidavits as hearsay, opinion or as being identical to other affidavits. For now, the evidence is part of a preliminary application for certification in a class action suit against the defendants. A provincial government website section covering legal matters defines the class certification process in a civil matter: “A resident of British Columbia who is a member of a class of persons may commence a proceeding in the court on behalf of the members of that class.”
In this case, the plaintiffs are applying to represent the residents of several homes. Erwin Huebner and Krista Kilvert are siblings whose mother lived at one of the homes in Chilliwack but passed away in October 2017.
The homes in question include the one in Chilliwack and others, including Casa Loma and Comox Valley Seniors Village in Courtenay. Other locations include Nanaimo, Victoria and Qualicum Beach.
The issue at this point for Justice Murray was to determine whether the plaintiffs’ affidavits to support their certification application should be struck in part or in whole. Some pieces of information, including media stories, Justice Murray deemed to be hearsay and inadmissible. She also found certain statements in plaintiffs’ submissions to be inadmissible. Other pieces of evidence, such as inspection reports into conditions at facilities, were seen as admissible. Because of the large number of specific points, the judge included a table outlining each matter.
Murray allowed the plaintiffs to amend their submissions in response to the ruling to address the shortcomings. In general, the weight of the evidence will be determined at the actual certification hearing after full submissions have been made.
The legal process began when the initial plaintiffs served the defendants their notice of claim in January 2019. Initially, they filed three affidavits, but in February 2020 the notice of application was amended to add 24 more affidavits comprised of thousands of pages. Along with those from residents’ families, there are a few from former staff members at the Chilliwack facility and a volunteer seniors’ advocate in the Comox Valley.
These cases have attracted media attention in recent years. For Comox Valley Seniors Village, the province had appointed an administrator in the fall of 2019 through July 2020 to work on numerous issues cited in inspection reports. At the end of that period, Minister of Health Adrian Dix said he expected the operators to continue the progress made by the temporary administrator.