24 Mar Elder Abuse in BC Care Homes – A Class Action

Lawsuits which may be too expensive or too difficult for one person can become viable when people file an action together.  This is called a Class Action.  A class action gives the individual the strength of numbers when taking action against defendants who often have more resources.

Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota has a long and storied involvement with class actions in British Columbia. Not only did our firm contribute to the drafting of the Class Procedures Act, which governs class action in this province, but in 1995 we also filed the first two class action lawsuits in BC.  Since then, we have continued to bring a number of class actions to successful resolution.

In May 2018, our firm filed a class action lawsuit against the owners and operators of twenty retirement facilities in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec doing business under the name “Retirement Concepts,” and against the Province of BC (Ministry of Health), which is responsible for regulating, funding, and supervising retirement facilities in BC (E.H., Administrator of the Estate of B.H., Deceased, and K.K. v. PR Seniors Housing Management Ltd. D.B.A. Retirement Concepts, Cedar Tree Investment Canada Inc., and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia (Ministry of Health).

The lawsuit alleges past and ongoing systemic neglect, mistreatment, and abuse of senior citizens who live in retirement facilities operated by Retirement Concepts. The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit on behalf of all persons who were residents in care homes owned and operated by Retirement Concepts after November 26, 2002, and on behalf of the spouses, parents and children of these residents.

The proposed representative plaintiffs, E.H. and K.K., are the adult children of B.H. (“Mrs. H.”), a former resident of one of Retirement Concepts’ BC care homes, who is now deceased. After Mrs. H. suffered a series of strokes that left her with dementia and the inability to communicate verbally, her family made the difficult decision to place her into residential care. She moved into Waverly Seniors Village, which is owned and operated by Retirement Concepts in Chilliwack, BC. Mrs. H. lived at Waverly Seniors Village for eight months. During that time Retirement Concepts employees treated her in a manner that physically and psychologically harmed her, and which deprived her of dignity – Mrs. H. experienced neglect, mistreatment, and abuse. No adequate care plan was put in place to address her capabilities, needs, or preferences. Mrs. H. fell on dozens of documented occasions. She was left physically restrained in a chair, where she was discovered in a state of distress by her family. Staff told her family that she was tied down to prevent her from falling again. She endured persistent bullying and verbal threats from another resident. Staff improperly administered her medication and endangered her life. Mrs. H.’s denture was routinely not inserted at mealtimes, leaving her unable to eat. Due to insufficient staffing, many other challenged and vulnerable residents like Mrs. H. were regularly deprived of food. Mrs. H. spent nights in soiled sheets in a room that smelled of urine, while certain staff members refused to attend to her needs. Retirement Concepts’ response to repeated complaints was to instruct its employees to cease communications with Mrs. H.’s family regarding her care.

Then, one night, Mrs. H. suffered a violent assault which left her with a black eye, facial swelling, bruises on her left shoulder and arm, a large laceration on her left forearm, and psychological trauma. Retirement Concepts did not report these injuries to the police – an RCMP investigation began only after Mrs. H.’s daughter reported the incident. The injuries resulted from an assault committed by Retirement Concepts employees, or which they negligently permitted to occur. A few weeks later, Mrs. H. re-injured her arm while being bathed by a care aid, for which she did not receive adequate medical treatment. Mrs. H. began to exhibit a sharp decline in her health. Her family withdrew her from Waverly Seniors Village but she died shortly thereafter, having never fully recovered from the abuse, neglect and trauma that she experienced while under the care of Retirement Concepts.

Sadly, many other elderly residents of care homes owned and operated by Retirement Concepts suffered and continue to endure similar abuses, mistreatment, and neglect. This lawsuit aims to draw attention to their plight, to stop such elder abuse, and to compensate those who have already suffered because of it. The growing population of elderly British Columbians, who have spent their lives contributing to their communities, have more than earned the right to enjoy their golden years. Family members of residents in care should be able to rely on residential care homes and the BC government to treat their elderly loved ones with the care, dignity, and respect that is both legally and ethically mandated.

If you would like to join this Elder Abuse class action, please contact our firm at (250) 384-6262.