Class action alleging abuse in provincial institution for children attains $12 million settlement

Similar settlements were reached in actions against facilities for youth with mental health issues

Class action alleging abuse in provincial institution for children attains $12 million settlement

A settlement has been approved in a class action alleging that Ontario breached its common law and fiduciary obligations in operating the Child and Parent Resource Institute, creating conditions resulting in the physical and sexual assault by staff and residents.

Of at least seven class actions alleging the physical and sexual abuse of children and youth in the care of Ontario-based provincial institutions, six reached judicially approved settlements, with four filed against provincially-operated “Schedule 1” facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health issues and two targeting provincially-run schools for blind and deaf students.

In Yeo v Ontario, 2021 ONSC 4534, the class action was initiated and certified on consent in 2016. The class consisted of all persons who were alive as of Feb. 22, 2014 and who were residing from Sept. 1, 1963 to July 1, 2011 as inpatients at the London, Ontario-based institute, formerly known as the Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute, exclusive of any time during which they were residing as inpatients in the Glenhurst or Pratten 1 units. The institute cared for children and youth with complex mental health and developmental impairments.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved the settlement agreement of up to $12 million consisting of a $10 million settlement fund and a $2 million contingency fund. Compensation payments ranged from $3,500 to $45,000, with the plan setting out three levels of sexual assault and one level of physical assault, plus “serious assault” for cases falling within the categories of both sexual and physical assault. The court likewise approved the counsel’s legal fees and the honoraria requested by the representative plaintiffs.

The court was satisfied on balance that the proposed settlement, which was patterned after settlements reached in the six previous actions, was fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class. Given that the court had approved individual compensation amounts of up to a maximum of $42,000 to $45,000 in the previous settlements, the proposed settlement here fell within the zone of reasonableness, the court found. Ruling otherwise would be unfair to the claimants in the previous cases and contrary to the law of settlement approval, the court said.

While the compensation range here was a few thousand dollars higher than in the four previous settlements involving “Schedule 1” facilities and equal to the two other settlements, the court accepted the evidence that the class counsel in this case faced more formidable challenges.

The court acknowledged that the objectors called upon the provincial government to acknowledge and apologize for its wrongs and called for higher settlement amounts, as the current amounts were “so inadequate as to be insulting.” However, the court noted that, back in 2013, Premier Kathleen Wynne gave a general apology to Ontarians failed by models of institutional care for those with developmental disabilities.

“I cannot in good conscience deny the monetary benefits of this settlement to hundreds of other affected class members because a tiny minority understandably insist on a more direct apology,” wrote Justice Edward Belobaba for the court.

Class members should submit their claims to the claims administrator by May 24, 2022, said the news release by Koskie Minsky LLP.

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