Since 2014, PBSC law students from UBC have been volunteering at Klein Lawyers LLP to work on the Woodlands class action. Woodlands was a residential facility for adults and children with mental disabilities in New Westminster, British Columbia. The institution operated until 1996. Following investigations by the province and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, it was revealed that many residents at Woodlands had experienced sexual, physical, and psychological abuse.
Some of the harm suffered by the residents included overcrowding, heavy doses of medication, and various forms of punishment such as seclusion. In 2010, the British Columbia Supreme Court approved a settlement of a class action for the institution’s former residents. Each resident who establishes that he or she was subjected to misconduct on or after August 1, 1974 may receive compensation ranging from $3,000 to $150,000. Over 800 class members have come forward to make claims under the class action settlement.
Collectively, a group of UBC law student volunteers spend about 27 hours each week reviewing resident files at the Klein office. Prior to beginning their work, students received training and guidance from lawyers at Klein. Students examine hundreds of pages of documents in each file and note up evidence of abuse and issues of concern. Applying tort principle, students then write a detailed memo on the issues found and flag possible claims based on the available evidence. Going forward, students are hoping to assist the lawyers at Klein in processing the remaining 500 or so claims before the deadline in September, 2016.