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Relatives preparing to launch class-action lawsuit against Lundy Manor

18 deaths recorded at the home since COVID-19 outbreak was declared on March 30

A law firm says it is preparing to launch a class-action lawsuit against Niagara Falls retirement home Lundy Manor after a family agreed to take on the role as plaintiffs.

Oakville-based managing partner Gary Will of Toronto law firm Will Davidson LLP says the phone is ringing in his office daily.

On the other end: family members in grief, seeking accountability for the home's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as it swept through, claiming 18 lives at latest count.

At least 10 families, mostly of residents who died after contracting the virus while living at the home are now behind a planned class-action lawsuit that the firm says will be presented to the courts in the following week, or a little more.

Will says the group alleges the home did not implement proper procedures in time, resulting in the spread of the outbreak that was declared by Niagara Regional Health on March 30.

On Thursday, the home did not provide any numbers on infections at the site, but regional medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji confirmed the number of infections among residents and staff had surpassed 47.

The statement of claim is being prepared, but has not yet been filed with the courts. Therefore no allegations have yet been tried or proven.

Since the outbreak, the home has come under public scrutiny after reports of a 'pub night' for residents of the home on March 28 - two days before the first case was recorded at the home.

The news caught the attention of premier Doug Ford, who mentioned the incident in a televised speech.

"First thing out of my mouth was 'you gotta be kidding me!" said Ford on April 4, apparently wound up over the reports that came after officials had stressed the need for social distancing, and putting an 'iron ring' around seniors.

Earlier this month, two Niagara New Democrat MPPs made public calls on the government to launch an investigation into the conditions at the retirement home that at the time recorded 12 residents dying from COVID-19.

Niagara Centre Jeff Burch and Niagara Falls Wayne Gates both supported a deeper probe into the home.

"We want to make sure we understand exactly what has happened not just at Lundy Manor but in other places, and not just because the families deserve to know, but for the future, so we can be better prepared to handle these issues," Burch tweeted.

Thorold News has sought comment from Lundy Manors owner regarding the allegations and the news of the planned lawsuit.

Tim Foster, vice-president of strategy and business development for owner Oxford Living, replied with the following statement:

"Lundy Manor is committed to taking all necessary steps to protect our residents from COVID-19, a virus which is impacting retirement homes and long-term care homes across the country. Since the very beginning of this outbreak, we have been working closely with our regulator and local public health officials – and continue to implement all recommendations. We have also worked tirelessly to secure additional personal protective equipment, staff and supports during this unprecedented time. We recognize that this has been a stressful and uncertain period and are grateful to our dedicated staff and committed families for their continued trust, dedication and support," the statement read.

Gary Will said the surviving relatives of those who passed away due to COVID-19 have not been mentioning any expectations regarding any hopes for specific outcomes of litigation as of now.

"They want answers to what happened," he said.