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Settlement in veterans’ class action lawsuit

By Carmen Marie Fabio


Pictured here in September, 2019, 97-year-old Wolf William Solkin passed away February 3, 2021 in time to hear the class action suit he initiated citing the decline in care at the Ste. Anne’s Veterans Hospital had reached a settlement agreement.

A class action lawsuit launched in October 2018 by a resident at the Ste. Anne’s Veterans Hospital, Wolf William Solkin, has reached a milestone this week following the release of a settlement agreement notice.

The suit alleged the defendants – the Attorneys General of both Canada and Quebec, and the West Island Centres intégrés universitaires de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) – failed to maintain the same level of care and service the veterans received following the transfer of the hospital from federal domain to the province.

Suit sought $30 million

As reported in The Journal in September, 2019 the suit was initially seeking approximately $30 million, the amount paid by the feds to the province to fulfill the mandate of caring for the increased needs of the remaining veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The lawyers representing the members of the class action suit are Laurent Kanemy and Michel Savonitto.

“Where has the money gone?” Solkin, who passed away February 3, 2021, asked at the time. “No one’s been able to give me an answer. That’s one of the key contentions in this class action suit.”

The settlement agreement reached includes the amount of $19 million, “…with no admission of any liability or fault from the defendants in the present case.” This agreement has to receive final approval by the Superior Court judge who is seized of the file, Justice Martin F. Sheehan. The approval will be held April 22, 2021 at the Montreal Courthouse at 1 Notre-Dame East.

Veterans and legal heirs

“There are only about 85 veterans left,” said Maitre Kanemy. “The others (in the class action) are family members, the legal heirs of the veterans in the group who have passed away.”

The suit claimed the provincial pay scale of the facility’s workforce was 30 per cent less under provincial domain, with fewer benefits as well, and led to roughly 400 of the 1000 staff members walking off the job on the day of the transfer while many nurses opted to take their retirement. Solkin said procedures like catheter changes, blood work, and basic hygiene needs were not being adequately addressed due to the lack of staff.

The permission to pursue the class action suit was initially granted almost immediately by Judge Donald Bisson. “The judge laced into the defendants mercilessly,” Solkin told The Journal. “In awarding us the recognition of the class action suit, he explained why he was making that decision. He said the defendants were ‘terribly negligent’ and ‘totally insensitive…’ He tore them a new one.”

Family reaction

Reached in Arizona, Solkin’s daughter Suzu Solkin said it was ‘epic’ news.

“I’m not surprised because the claims were legitimate,” she said. “I know that doesn’t always necessitate a positive outcome and that’s not always how the law works but this wasn’t frivolous or unwarranted. It’s nice to see that, for the benefit of all involved, the good guys won.”

Solkin was the father of five children, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He is survived by his wife Louise Langlois.

Though Solkin, who passed away a week before his 98th birthday, was aware of the fact that the settlement had been reached, Suzu lamented the close timing.

“I understand that it was really important for him. He would really have liked witnessing the impact of the positive outcome. He would have enjoyed seeing others be able to celebrate and rejoice and to feel that win. He would’ve relished that opportunity and it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get to have it.”

In his 2019 interview, Wolf Solkin said he knew he and his fellow veterans – some of whom were in their mid-90s – would not be leaving the hospital. “We’re dying off,” he said. “We’re here to die, but with the proper level of care and dignity that we were promised.”

“His life was remarkable, a life well-lived,” said Suzu. “He didn’t set out to create this for himself but I’m so proud of him.”

More details for the class action members will be made available at www.savonitto.com.