MONTREAL -- Residents of CHSLD Herron, a Dorval long-term care facility hard hit by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, have reached a $5.5 million settlement with the residence's management.

Lawyer Arthur Wechsler who is representing the class action plaintiffs confirmed the signing of the agreement Wednesday morning.

It provides for the payment of compensation to several categories of people.

The amount will be shared with the estates of deceased residents, the spouses or children of the deceased, and residents who were present during the first wave and survived.

The class action alleged that the residents were deprived of care and neglected in the context of the pandemic. It held that the residents deserved to be compensated for the way they were treated during this period.

The private Residence Herron was among the hardest hit in Quebec by COVID-19 last spring, and it has faced multiple investigations in addition to the class-action lawsuit.

Patrizia Di Biase-Leone, whose 98-year-old mother was a resident there and is now living in a care home in east-end Montreal, said the money is not enough for her.

"Yeah, it’s $5.5 million, but our parents, whether they are still here or not are worth a heck of a lot more than that,” she said. “We can’t put a dollar on our parents, on our loved ones, but what can we do?... It has to go further than a settlement. They are criminals, they are criminals. In the end, to me, they are criminals.”

Di Biase-Leone said she thinks the building should never house seniors again.

"I would almost tear it down because there are a lot of people who drive by there, who have memories of it, of what happened, of us standing outside waving at our loved ones when we could,” she said.

She said her family and others will always remember what transpired.

"We still have those memories. For us, it’s those times that we knew we couldn’t go in. There was police in front of it all. It was just so traumatizing to see what was going on… are we going to see another person being wheeled out?”

Wechsler said Wednesday a settlement came together recently without admission of liability from the defendants or their insurance company, who agreed to provide compensation.

A judge will need to authorize the agreement, with a date before Quebec Superior Court scheduled for April 30. The claims process should begin about six months after approval, with eligible members expected to receive payment by the end of 2021.

Wechsler said the pandemic amplified an already existing condition that was the subject of the lawsuit, which alleged the long-term care home acted recklessly and showed a disregard for its residents and their safety.

"COVID-19 brought to light what we alleged in the settlement was the mistreatment to the various residents of the Herron long-term health care facility -- what the most fragile, vulnerable people were undergoing," Wechsler said in an interview.

"Because of the COVID pandemic, it brought that to the surface. We weren't alleging that COVID caused this. We were alleging a treatment or mistreatment which was already existing."

Last year, Herron's owners, Katasa Group of Gatineau, Que., announced they were closing the facility. A public relations firm that has been representing the owners said they did not have any immediate comment on the settlement.

Wechsler said there were about 134 residents at the facility in April 2020 when the class action was filed. The class includes those at the residence between March 13, 2020 and May 31, 2020, when the province took over management.

The settlement would be distributed among surviving spouses or children of the residents who died and residents who are still living.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Barbara Schneider, the daughter of Mary Schneider, 93, who died at the Residence Herron on April 10. There were 47 deaths at the Dorval, Que., facility, which will be the focus of a coroner's inquest this fall.

Those hearings were delayed last month until September at the request of the Herron owners, who are waiting to see if they will face criminal charges.


-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.