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Law firm drops class action lawsuit against Sudbury hospital

Gluckstein Lawyers has filed a notice of intent to discontinue the suit, claims regarding deficiencies in breast screening will now be pursued individually
HSNSummerSized
(File)

A class-action lawsuit for patients who, it is alleged, had breast imaging reports misread at Sudbury’s Health Sciences North (HSN) has been discontinued, said a notice from the law office handling the suit.

The class action lawsuit was announced back in February.

Gluckstein Lawyers filed an order to discontinue the proceedings on June 2. You can find that document here. Lawyer Jordan Assaraf of Gluckstein Lawyers refused an interview seeking clarity on what transpired with the proposed suit.

The class action suit originally centred around issues of alleged negligence in Health Sciences North’s Radiology Department, specifically focused on quality and accuracy problems in breast imaging interpretation. 

The suit alleges that, between 2008 and 2020, the department consistently fell below the required standard of care when interpreting breast imaging reports.

Gluckstein Lawyers notes in the the Notice of Intent to Discontinue that Health Sciences North, the defendant hospital administrators and the defendant doctors deny these allegations.

The discontinuance of the class action means, essentially, that Gluckstein Lawyers will be pursuing each claim individually, rather than as a class action.

The discontinuance of the class action means each person believes they may have been affected by the alleged shortcoming of the breast imaging centre at HSN must file their own claim and the class action, and it will no longer cover people who have not yet come forward that may have wanted to form part of the class. 

The firm will be filing individual actions against HSN and the individual doctors who had an involvement with each specific patient's file.  

For those who were a part of the claim, there is now the need to pursue the suit on their own, with individual lawyers, and to pay special attention to timelines. 

The Limitations Act sets out a basic limitation period of two years in Ontario. This means that a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the day on which the claim was discovered. Those who had their time limit paused because of their involvement with the suit, that is, their claim was ‘tolled’ as of Dec. 14, the beginning of the class action, will have their two-year period restart as of Aug. 31. 

The notice of intent to discontinue issued by Gluckstein Lawyers states that those who have had their claim paused “should take notice that the limitation period for bringing a claim, if there is any time left within it, will recommence running on August 31, 2022.” Therefore, those who wish to continue with proceedings individually will need to refile, and consider that the two year period will recommence on Aug. 31, the official end date of proceedings. 

As a result, former breast imaging patients of Health Sciences North wishing to claim compensation should seek legal advice and must commence their individual actions before their respective limitation period(s) expire. 

“Failure to do so may restrict one’s ability to pursue a claim for compensation,” states the notice.

In its description of “Health Sciences North and What They Knew” Gluckstein states, “In February 2018, a group of senior surgeons at Health Sciences North sent a letter to the hospital’s senior leadership ‘regarding significant concerns regarding breast-specific imaging at Health Sciences North. The letter outlined substantial issues that were identified relating to the accuracy and overall quality of breast imaging reports. According to the doctors, they had problems with the substandard quality frequency and the lack of desire for improvements.”

The original 33-page statement of claim was filed on behalf of Shannon Hayes, a former Sudbury woman. 

The original suit names the hospital and several doctors and radiologists as defendants. Hayes claimed that a proper diagnosis of her breast cancer was missed during her screening at HSN in 2018. 

A year would go by before her breast cancer was diagnosed during a checkup performed at another hospital, in London, England, where she now lives. By then, the cancer had spread and Hayes is currently coping with metastatic cancer. 

The $22-million claim originally alleged "systemic negligence of the radiology service" at HSN for such things as interpretation of breast imaging, mammography, breast ultrasound and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) breast imaging.  The claim originally covered the period from Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2020.

In the original claim statement, several situations were described. During the time outlined in the lawsuit, HSN operated a breast screening and assessment service (BSAS) at the hospital, part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, said the court document. 

Also, during the time period, the claim alleged "there was an overwhelming, objective decline in the standards of practice in the performance and interpretation of Breast Imaging (sic)." 

The claim alleged this significantly impacted the BSAS team’s ability to manage patients to an appropriate standard of care and the lawyers also alleged that radiology chief, Dr. Evan Roberts, knew of the substandard breast imaging but took no corrective action. 

It also stated that medical chief of staff Dr. John Fenton was specifically told about the substandard breast imaging but failed to take any timely action.

None of these claims have been proven in court. 

For more information about the discontinuance of the class action, visit the Gluckstein Lawyers website here

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.