Court Finds Claims Process is Complicated and Time-Consuming
VANCOUVER, Oct. 4, 2012 /CNW/ - Yesterday Chief Justice Bauman of the Supreme Court of British Columbia extended the claim deadline in the Woodlands class action settlement for an additional year, to September 19, 2013.
The settlement compensates some of the survivors of the Woodlands School, a residential facility operated by the Province of B.C. for mentally disabled children and adults. Woodlands closed in 1996 amid allegations of systemic abuse. Two independent investigations confirmed the widespread physical and sexual abuse of Woodlands residents.
In 2010 the Province agreed to settle the class action, offering a complicated claims process that allows Woodlands survivors who were at the institution after 1974 to apply for compensation.
In today's decision, Chief Justice Bauman finds "the claims process is much more complicated and time consuming than the parties apparently considered in the negotiation and finalization of the Settlement Agreement" and that "[s]uch an extensive claims process was hardly contemplated by the Settlement Agreement."
David Klein, whose firm has been retained by over 800 class members, says "the Province has taken a scorched earth approach in its responses to the survivors' claims." As a result, he notes "only 9 claims have been decided by the court appointed adjudicators in the almost two years that the settlement has operated." He continued: "I would be surprised if the Province isn't spending more money paying an army of lawyers and experts to fight these claims than it would cost to provide meaningful compensation to the survivors."
Mr. Klein added that "the oldest, most fragile Woodlands survivors who left the institution prior to August 1, 1974 continue to be left out in the cold. While the Province was not legally required to compensate residents for abuse prior to 1974, the cut-off date is a morally arbitrary distinction." He says that "the Province could make compensation available to all Woodlands residents if it wanted to." Mr. Klein believes that there are fewer than 500 pre-1974 Woodlands survivors still alive and that a more streamlined compensation process should be developed to recognize the suffering of all the Woodlands survivors.
The class is represented by Klein Lyons of Vancouver and Toronto, one of Canada's most experienced class action law firms.
SOURCE: Klein Lyons
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