Lawsuit claims Calgary restaurant’s negligence of COVID-19 protocols led to outbreak

Roughly a dozen cases of COVID-19 linked to a Calgary restaurant have led to a lawsuit against the establishment’s parent company, which is being accused of negligence in doing its part to stop the spread of the virus.

Joey Eau Claire in the city’s downtown was put on Alberta Health Services’ COVID-19 outbreak list last month, with 58 cases being reported linked to the restaurant to date, 39 of them being a variant of concern.

Read more: COVID-19 ICU rates, hospitalizations continue to rise in Alberta

In a statement of claim filed Friday against the restaurant’s owner, Joey Tomato’s, Guardian Law Group LLP said staff at the restaurant didn’t follow AHS regulations and take proper precautions to ensure the safety of staff and customers, or to notify the appropriate parties of the outbreak.

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The sole plaintiff named in the lawsuit and his pregnant wife went to the Joey restaurant on March 13 for dinner, and a week later, both tested positive for COVID-19, according to the statement of claim.

The claim states that six of the couple’s close contacts, including both their sets of parents, eventually also tested positive. The plaintiff’s wife and mother both had to be hospitalized due to complications from the illness, and the wife now has to be monitored throughout her pregnancy.

Read more: COVID-19: What’s behind Calgary’s recent rise in active cases?

The statement of claim goes on to list more than a dozen failures the restaurant allegedly made in its COVID-19 safety policy, including:

  • Failing to ensure that adequate safety protocols were in place
  • Failing to warn the class members of COVID-19 exposures or infections at Joey and failing to take immediate and comprehensive steps to isolate those affected or take other appropriate remedial action
  • Failing to provide or monitor adequate separation between customers, as well as customers and staff
  • Failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that patrons seated together were from the same household
  • Failing to conduct regular testing to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Failing to have any or adequate personal protective equipment available
  • Failing to implement and adhere to protocols mandated or recommended by Alberta Health Services, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the World Health Organization
  • Failing to implement adequate procedures to ensure that personnel or staff or others infected or potentially infected with COVID-19 were not allowed entry into Joey or, in the alternative, failing to ensure such procedures were followed
  • Failing to employ and properly train competent staff on proper, safe or adequate protocols for caring for those with COVID-19 and preventing the spread
  • Failing to implement adequate cleaning and maintenance procedures
  • Failing to take immediate and comprehensive steps to inform Alberta Heath Services, the chief medical officer or the public of the scope of the infection with COVID-19
  • Failing to ensure that the customers or family members were adequately informed, or at all, of the COVID-19 outbreak at Joey

The lawsuit is seeking $17 million in damages from the Joey Tomato’s corporation and according to lawyer Mathew Farrell, more than a dozen people have contacted him in relation to the litigation, which the lawyers are looking to have certified as a class-action suit.

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“The allegation is that the restaurant didn’t do things that were within its control, things that were reasonable, in order to minimize the transmission of COVID-19,” Farrell said Friday.

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In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Joey Tomato’s said the company “just learned about this class-action lawsuit” on Friday.

“We take the safety of our employees and patrons very seriously,” the statement read.

“We have consistently followed the public health guidelines and recommendations of Alberta Health Services and have cooperated fully with AHS in respect of this matter.”

Read more: Alberta ‘not in a position’ to send health-care workers to Ontario amid COVID-19 case surge

Joey Eau Claire was issued two noticed of violations under the Public Health Act in March, once on March 6 and again on March 12.

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The outbreak at the restaurant was first declared on March 13.

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