Horizon Health argues against admission of new information in mothers' class-action lawsuit

·3 min read
Former nurse Nicole Ruest was fired in March 2019, after women at the Moncton Hospital were allegedly administered the labour-inducing drug oxytocin without their consent. (Instagram - image credit)
Former nurse Nicole Ruest was fired in March 2019, after women at the Moncton Hospital were allegedly administered the labour-inducing drug oxytocin without their consent. (Instagram - image credit)

A hearing began on Monday to determine the admissibility of new information as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit against Horizon Health Network and a former obstetrics nurse.

Judge Denise LeBlanc heard arguments from plaintiff and defendant lawyers related to new information brought forward during a certification hearing for the lawsuit in October.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of mothers who believe they were improperly administered oxytocin. It alleges former nurse Nicole Ruest administered the labour-inducing drug to potentially "hundreds" of pregnant women at the Moncton Hospital without their consent.

Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract and can be dangerous for the health of the fetus as it can cut off oxygen supply and affect fetal heart rate.

Certification hearing delayed

Both Ruest and Horizon are named as defendants in the proposed class action.

The certification hearing to determine if the lawsuit can proceed as a class action began in late October, but it was delayed on the second day after new information was brought forward by the plaintiff lawyers.

Those details are under a court-imposed publication ban until a decision is made by LeBlanc on the admissibility of the new information.

Lawyer John McKiggin, representing the mothers, argued the new information should be included and considered when the certification hearing proceeds.

David Hashey, representing Horizon Health Network, argued the information should not be admissible in its entirety.

Andrew Faith and Brookelyn Kirkham, lawyers for Ruest, told the court the information does not meet the requirements to be admissible and is not relevant to certification.

The firm representing the women in the proposed suit said after the initial hearing that more than 300 women have contacted them after seeing media coverage.

Lawyer Mathieu Picard of Fidelis Law, who is representing the mothers with McKiggan, said in an interview that the firm has been in contact with more potential class members over the past few months.

"As a litigation lawyer you have to be patient, and unfortunately our proposed claimants are also in the same system," he said. "It's not a system that is quick, it's not a system that is fast, but the goal is to obtain a just and fair resolution at the end, and that requires time."

The certification hearing is to determine if a class action is preferable to litigation on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs must prove it provides access to justice, judicial economy and could result in behaviour modification.

Court heard details during the start of the certification hearing from affidavits from seven women during the certification hearing who allege they were given oxytocin without their consent or knowledge.

Horizon against certification

The statement of claim says the women believe they received oxytocin between September 2010 and March 2019, as a result of Ruest's actions, and suffered harm as a result. That time frame is when Ruest worked in the labour and delivery unit, according to Horizon's statement of defence.

Lawyers for Horizon and Ruest have both filed statements of defence.

The defendants want a ruling against certification and have argued the case does not meet the standards to proceed as a class action.

A decision on the admissibility of the new information is expected early next year.

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