Proposed class-action launched against Horizon and nurse over alleged labour inducement

A proposed class-action lawsuit has been launched against the Horizon Health Network and nurse Nicole Ruest on behalf of women who were allegedly “inappropriately” given a labour-inducing drug at Moncton Hospital and required emergency caesarean sections.

The lawsuit, filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton on Thursday, alleges that Ruest “for years” administered Oxytocin to labouring mothers without their knowledge or consent, through a punctured saline IV bag in at least one case.

Moncton Hospital allegedly knew “for years” that it had a “suspiciously high” rate of emergency C-sections and instrument-assisted deliveries by forceps or vacuum, according to the statement of claim.

“The hospital gave Ruest the opportunity to abuse her role over the vulnerable class members and knew, or should have known, that she was negligently performing her duties as an obstetric nurse,” the court document alleges.

Ruest is directly liable to the women for her actions and Horizon is directly liable for its negligence and vicariously liable as Ruest’s employer and supervisor for 15 years, it states.

Jayde Scott recounts how traumatic it was for her to give birth after allegedly being given labour-inducing drug. 1:06

‘Very traumatic’

Jayde Scott is the representative plaintiff of the proposed class action, which has not yet been certified.

She was 38 weeks and three days pregnant with twins when she had an emergency C-section after allegedly being given Oxytocin without her consent by Ruest, according to the lawsuit filed by the Halifax-based firm McKiggan Hebert and Fidelis Law Droit of Moncton.

“It was very traumatic,” Scott said in tears during a news conference at Fidelis Law Droit Thursday to announce the lawsuit.

The plaintiff and class members have sustained and will continue to sustain pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of amenities.– Statement of claim

She is urging other mothers to come forward.

Horizon officials declined to comment Thursday on the proposed class action, which covers 2005 to 2019. 

Officials from the New Brunswick Nurses Union declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP.

The Nurses Association of New Brunswick, the professional regulatory body, also declined to comment, pending the outcome of the RCMP investigation.

On March 30, Horizon confirmed that a registered nurse at Moncton Hospital was fired after an internal investigation revealed “strong evidence” the nurse administered Oxytocin, which caused two women to require an urgent caesarean section.

The name of the nurse was not disclosed. The court documents identify her as being Ruest.

RCMP are investigating. No arrest has been made.

The nurses association has said it immediately suspended the licence of the nurse in question because of the seriousness of the allegations and because she was working at a second undisclosed facility

The union is obligated to provide legal assistance to the nurse in connection with being fired but does not represent members in criminal or civil matters, officials have said.

Punctured IV bag

Halifax-based lawyer John McKiggan announced the lawsuit Thursday, along with Moncton lawyer Mathieu Picard, left, and representative plaintiff Jayde Scott, far right, who was accompanied by her mother, Beverly Cuppens. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

Scott went to the Moncton Hospital on March 28 for a scheduled inducement.

Her obstetrician artificially ruptured her membranes, and then Ruest allegedly hooked her up to an IV, which was supposed to be saline.

“Under five minutes later, [Scott] began to experience very strong contractions that would not stop,” the court document states.

“Almost immediately, the fetal heart monitor showed a dangerous drop in the fetal heart rates. [Scott] was also experiencing adverse effects.”

There was no time for an epidural, so Scott was given general anesthesia and her daughters, Ava and Avery, were born via emergency C-section.

The next day, Scott’s obstetrician, Dr. Erin Hemsworth, told her the IV saline bag was tested and found to contain Oxytocin, which had been inserted via small punctures in the bag, according to the court document.

“She was informed that the defendant nurse Ruest was responsible.”

Oxytocin, if administered improperly, can cause a fetal heart rate to drop and create the need for an emergency caesarean section.

Seeking apology, damages

The lawsuit alleges Scott and class members have suffered “serious injuries,” including:

  • Unnecessary major surgery (caesarean section), complications and consequences.
  • Impaired ability for future vaginal deliveries.
  • Unnecessary instrument-assisted delivery (forceps/vacuum) causing injury.
  • Premature delivery.
  • Anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Emotional trauma.
  • Psychological injuries.

“The plaintiff and class members have sustained and will continue to sustain pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of amenities,” the document states.

Relief sought includes an apology and declaration of the legal responsibility of the hospital for the actions of Ruest and the injuries suffered by class members, and a notification program for mothers who were treated by Ruest.

In addition, the lawsuit is seeking punitive damages, aggravated damages, compensation for loss of income and ability to earn income, special damages, general damages, aggregate damages, pre-judgment interest and costs.

More than 40 concerned mothers have called Horizon Health since the nurse was fired. (CBC)

Last week, Horizon said it has fielded calls from more than 40 concerned mothers since news of alleged misuse of the labour-inducing drug broke.

Horizon is asking patients with concerns to call its patient representative services.

Halifax lawyer John McKiggan has argued that this puts an unfair burden on mothers.

Horizon officials have declined further comment, citing the RCMP investigation.

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