Tort Tuesday: recovering addicts charged for methadone treatments

Methadone formula displayed on tablet.
Methadone formula displayed on tablet. Stock illustration from iStock/Getty Images.

This week’s Tort Tuesday features a lawsuit that could turn into a class action, another class-action that is being dragged out in court, and finally a class-action being settled.

A lawyer in British Columbia has filed to initiate what could turn out to become a class-action lawsuit against the province.

The documents claim that the government allowed private methadone-dispensing clinics to deduct money from the income-assistance cheques of recovering heroin addicts.

Apparently, people who were registered with the methadone maintenance province were charged $18.34 per month by the clinics, or else they couldn’t get treatment.

Jason Gratl, the lawyer who launched the lawsuit, says the money is automatically deducted out of government cheques.

His client, Laura Shaver, a recovering heroin addict, claims that she was forced to sign a government-drafted Alcohol and Drug Fee Authorization Agreement. She claims she did so "unwillingly and under duress" or else she wouldn’t have been able to get the methadone treatments she needed from the Yale Medical Centre in downtown Vancouver.

Gratl calls the scheme: “deeply unethical.” Basically, the way the scheme works is that the fee agreement is $60 in total. The government subsidizes the cost in the amount of $41.66, which leaves the participant to pay $18.34.

A lawyer with the legal advocacy organization Pivot Legal Society, Adrienne Smith, calls this situation unacceptable. She says that: "medically necessary treatment should be provided without user fees." Smith also notes that for people on assistance, $18 is a large amount to have to pay for treatment.

This fee is not being charged at public clinics, only private ones. Unfortunately, public clinics have large space restrictions and the only spaces available may be those in private clinics.

The B.C. government has so far not commented on the lawsuit.

Federal government accused of dragging its feet on Newfoundland residential school class-action lawsuit

A lawyer representing survivors of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador has accused the federal government of delay tactics in court.

Kirk Baert, a Toronto lawyer, recently accused the government of “complete lack of co-operation” and also alleges that the government is trying to wait out elderly survivors. The class action has been dragging on for eight years.

Baert distributed a document to The Globe and Mail enumerating the delays. Some of them include the federal government trying to drag the province into the lawsuit as the main litigant. This was something a judge was opposed to as far back as 2008, because it would cause untold time delays.

Another delay tactic was for the government to refuse to permit certain documents being utilized as evidence unless they could have someone explain these documents. Baert pointed out that this wasted hundreds of hours and his side won these arguments anyways. The federal government’s main argument is that it had no direct role in overseeing these schools, and that it was under the province’s authority.

The Globe asked for comment from the justice department, which passed the request on to the indigenous and northern affairs department.

Still, this case will fall into the hands of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has already vowed to work toward reconciliation between the federal government and indigenous peoples.

Sino-Forest class action settlement approved for $32.5 million

A case which alleged that that Sino-Forest Corp., a company that claimed it was the among the leading forest plantation operators in China had defrauded investors, has finally been settled for $32.5 million.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the go-ahead for the settlement last week.

Investors had started the class action, when Sino-Forest collapsed amongst accusations of fraud. It was alleged that auditors, officers, directors and more were using misleading accounting tactics to mislead and defraud investors.

The settlement does not contain admissions of guilt and no allegations have been proven in court.

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