Riley Saunders Class Action

​​This class action claims that Robert Riley Saunders, a social worker employed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), deliberately caused harm to children in the care of the Province.  This harm includes neglect, misappropriation of funds, and failure to plan for the children's welfare and, with respect to Indigenous children, failure to take steps to preserve their cultural identities. 

The Province agrees that Saunders harmed children in the Director's care for whom he had responsibility in his capacity as a social worker. The purpose of this class action is to require the Province to pay compensation to the class members.  The Public Guardian and Trustee is the litigation guardian responsible for making legal decisions about this class action on behalf of the representative plaintiff. 

This class action has settled and the Settlement was approved by the Supreme Court of British Columbia on October 23, 2020.

Gratl and Company is Class Counsel for this class action.  For more information about the class action, please visit their website https://www.gratlandcompany.com/cases/swuav-public-interest-standing/

Details about the Settlement process can be found here.

Riley Saunders Class Action Settlement FAQs

These contain answers to commonly asked questions about this class action.

Why was this Class Action filed?

Who is eligible to be part of the Class Action? How is inclusion in the Class Action determined?

Where do I get more information about the Class Action?  Who can I contact to find out if I am included in the Class Action?

Who do I contact within the PGT if I have an adult who may be part of this Settlement?

What if I don't want to be part of the Class Action?

How much will I receive from the Class Action?  

Will the Settlement affect my social service benefits (PWD or income assistance)?

I am a community partner assisting a young adult who has received notification of the Class Settlement. I am uncomfortable assisting the young adult with understanding the documents and completing the paperwork provided.  Where do I direct the young adult for assistance?

Is there a deadline to be included in the Class Action?

Will the Settlement amount cover future damages that may not currently be apparent? Or will this be limited by the two year deadline to accept the Settlement? (If I take the Settlement now can I sue again later if additional issues arise?)

Will I receive notification that the Settlement was approved?

What is the Settlement compensating for?

When and how do I receive my Settlement?

Do I have to go to court and testify?

Once I receive my Settlement who can assist me with managing the finances? Is there a charge for that service?

What happens if I enter into a Post Majority Trustee by Agreement which ends when I am 27? What other supports are available to me to manage my finances?

 

Q:  Why was this Class Action filed?

A:   The fraudulent and neglectful practices of social worker, Riley Saunders, employed by the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) serving children in care resulted in harm to children for whom he had a duty of care. Given the number of children with common issues against this social worker, a lawsuit was filed and later certified as a class proceeding. On October 23, 2020 the Settlement was approved by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) is property guardian for the representative plaintiff. Most Class Members are now over age 19.

Q:  Who is eligible to be part of the Class Action? How is inclusion in the Class Action determined?

A:   If the child was in the care of MCFD and after April 1, 2001 was assigned to Robert Riley Saunders for a period of 90 consecutive days or more, they are considered in the Class Action unless they choose to opt out.

Q:   Where do I get more information about the Class Action? Who can I contact to find out if I am included in the Class Action?

A:    The law firm of Gratl & Company is Class Counsel for this Class Action. Jason Gratl is the lead counsel. For more detailed information, they can be contacted at:

Gratl & Company
Class Action Administration
511 – 55 East Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 0A5
Email: saundersclassaction@gratlandcompany.com
Phone: 604.694.1919 or toll free: 1.866.230.2752 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Pacific Time)

Q:   Who do I contact within the PGT if I have an adult who may be part of this Settlement?

A:    You can contact Vanessa Lozinski, Child and Youth Guardianship and Trust Officer. Her contact information is:

Email: vlozinski@trustee.bc.ca
Phone: 604.842.7029

Q:   What if I don't want to be part of the Class Action?

A:    You have 24 months (2 years) from the Settlement approval date to opt out, provided you have not accepted any Settlement monies during that period. There might be provisions for an extension if any issues arise during the timeline. 

Q:   How much will I receive from the Class Action?

A:   Under the Settlement Agreement, Class Members will be eligible for the following Basic Payments, without submitting proof of harm: 

  • $25,000 payable to all Class Members
  • $44,000 payable in addition to the $25,000 for loss of cultural support / connection for all Indigenous Class Members (for a total payment of $69,000)

In addition to the basic payments, Class Members may apply for elevated damages. The maximum amount payable for elevated damages for an individual is $181,000. Additional information regarding the elevated damages can be found in the Notice of Settlement. The elevated damages are capped at $181,000 and the total Settlement amount is capped at $250,000. 

Q:   Will the Settlement affect my social service benefits (PWD or income assistance)?

A:    The Settlement Agreement provides that amounts paid to Class Members in this Class Action are in respect of a claim for injury, loss or damage caused or contributed to by an employee of the Province, for the purposes of the Employment and Assistance Act, [SBC 2002], c. 40, the Employment and Assistance for Individuals with Disability Act, [SBC 2002], c. 41 and regulations thereunder. The result is that Settlement payments are exempt from the calculation of assets for purpose of determining eligibility for benefits under the current regulations. 

Q:   I am a community partner assisting a young adult who has received notification of the Class Settlement. I am uncomfortable assisting the young adult with understanding the documents and completing the paperwork provided.  Where do I direct the young adult for assistance?

A:   Adult individuals who are, or may be, Class Members should be referred to Class Counsel. 

The law firm of Gratl & Company are Class Counsel for this Class Action. Jason Gratl is the lead counsel. They can be contacted at:

Gratl & Company
Class Action Administration
511 – 55 East Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC  V6A 0A5
Email: saundersclassaction@gratlandcompany.com
Phone: 604.694.1919 or toll free: 1.866.230.2752 (from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Pacific Time)

Q:   Is there a deadline to be included in the Class Action?

A:    The defendant has produced a list of individuals who are known to meet the criteria for class membership. If you are on the list, you are part of the class. If you meet the criteria but are not on the list, you have 24 months from the Settlement approval date to submit an application for class membership. Contact Class Counsel for further information on the application process. 

Q:   Will the Settlement amount cover future damages that may not currently be apparent? Or will this be limited by the two year deadline to accept the Settlement? (If I take the Settlement now can I sue again later if additional issues arise?)

A:    Inclusion in the class results in a full release of all other claims for damage relating to the conduct of Riley Saunders in his role as social worker for MCFD. If you are in the class, and do not opt out, you may not start another law suit for damages arising out of the same facts. In that case, your damages will be limited to what is available under the terms of any judgment or approved Settlement in the class proceeding.

Q:    Will I receive notification that the Settlement was approved?

A:    To receive notification, you may register your address online at www.gratlandcompany.com or by telephone at 604.694.1919 or toll free 1.866.230.2752, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm Pacific Time. 

A public Notice of Settlement approval can be found here:

http://www.gratlandcompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Notice-of-Settlement-long-form-October-23-2020.pdf.

A less detailed Notice can be found here:

http://www.gratlandcompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Notice-of-Settlement-Short-Form-October-21-2020.pdf

Q:    What is the Settlement compensating for?

A:     The Settlement provides a basic payment for damages, which does not require any proof of loss. There is also a process to apply for additional damages in each of the following specific categories:  1) Sexual Exploitation; 2) Psychological Harm; 3) Homelessness; 4) Educational Delay; and 5) Bodily Harm; where the harm was caused by the actions of Riley Saunders. 

Q:    When and how do I receive my Settlement?

A:     Payments will be made through Class Counsel. The basic payment amount will be made upon an individual being accepted as a Class Member. The additional payments for elevated damages will be made once the application is submitted and the claim is either accepted or awarded by an adjudicator. The deadline for submitting application forms is October 23, 2022.

Q:    Do I have to go to court and testify?

A:     There are no court appearances required. However an application for elevated damages or class membership may result in an adjudication by neutral adjudicator. The process is designed to be as fast and fair as reasonably possible and is to be non-adversarial in nature. The determination of the adjudicator is final and binding.

Q:    Once I receive my Settlement who can assist me with managing the finances? Is there a charge for that service?

A:    Financial wellness services are available as part of the Settlement. This will provide basic information on money management issues and options. 

In addition, the Public Guardian and Trustee offers a Post Majority Trustee by Agreement Program. For more information on our Post Majority Services, visit our website located at:  https://www.trustee.bc.ca/services/child-and-youth-services/Pages/Post-Majority-Services.aspx

You will not be required to pay any fees for this service if you are a Class Member. 

Q:    What happens if I enter into a Post Majority Trustee by Agreement which ends when I am 27? What other supports are available to me to manage my finances?

A:     You can contact your Guardianship and Trust Officer who can discuss different options that may be available to you. 

Contact:   Vanessa Lozinski, Guardianship and Trust Officer       Phone: 604.842.7029