Crumbs for the former patients of Zero Gravity Clinics

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Crumbs for ex-patients of Zero Gravity Clinics

Amicable settlement is approved as part of a class action.

Stéphanie Baulne, representative of the group of ex-patients in the class action against the Zéro Gravité clinics and its 12 chiropractors.

The Superior Court has just approved the ;out-of-court settlement reached within the framework of the class action brought by former patients of Zéro Gravité chiropractic clinics. But it is an amount very far from what they claimed that will be given to the clients of these clinics.

Stéphanie Baulne can no longer ride the two horses she owns at her farmhouse in Saint-Narcisse-de-Beaurivage, in the Chaudière-Appalaches region. Due to her herniated discs, she has been disabled for approximately five years.

Ms Baulne was hoping to avoid surgery when, in 2012, she undertook treatment at one of four Zero Gravity chiropractic clinics in the province. These treatments, called neuro-vertebral decompressions, were given on mechanized, computer-assisted traction beds. The cost of her 20 sessions was $4,300, which she had to borrow.

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Despite these treatments, Stéphanie Baulne did not escaped the operating table and underwent four surgeries shortly thereafter and within the following year.

After the broadcast in 2013 of three reports on these clinics in the program La invoice, a class action was authorized in 2016 against the company and the dozen chiropractors who work there, including the two founders. It was the Ménard-Martin law firm, which specializes in medical law, which obtained authorization to bring the lawsuit. Stéphanie Baulne is chosen to represent the group of ex-patients. I was surprised that I was asked to be the representative of the group. Why me? Because I was the most messed up, I have to believe.

Stéphanie Baulne can no longer ride her horses .

The chiropractors targeted by the lawsuit filed several motions to dismiss evidence. In her judgment delivered on December 16, 2022, but which was not made public until Friday January 20, Judge Suzanne Courchesne also underlines the fact that the defendants [have categorically denied] any wrongdoing, fault or liability. to ex-patients. The nature and extent of the damage [was] also disputed.

Even the after-effects of the treatments on Stéphanie Baulne were called into question, in particular during her out-of-court interrogation, an exercise which she considered difficult, carried out by the defense lawyers. The pressure of the opposing party gets inside you. It's really distressing, she laments.

Heavily medicated to relieve her pain, exhausted by the two days of interrogation, she asked the court to x27; be relieved of her status as a class representative. I was no longer up to the task of answering questions. Under the pressure, I lost all my means. Unfortunately for her, the judge denied her request.

Efforts to file a class action lawsuit began in 2013, but the company has since gone bankrupt, along with nearly half of the chiropractors. The Ménard-Martin firm feared that the others would do the same, in the event of a victory in court. So, we can end up with a very nice judgment, which we can frame and put on a wall, but which will be very difficult to execute, explains Me Patrick Martin-Ménard, the lawyer responsible for this action. collective.

Patrick Ménard-Martin, lawyer

It is for this reason that two insurance companies have been targeted in the class action. It was clear, he says, from the outset that the largest proportion of any amount that could possibly be obtained following a favorable judgment would come from insurers. . And not chiros.

But insurance companies have exclusion clauses such as the cost of treatments, false advertising, and acts that deviate from normal chiropractic practice. These are all elements on which the firm relied in its request. Once we get into the heat of the moment and are faced with these arguments, says Mr. Martin-Ménard, we have to readjust our objectives for a possible settlement.

After six years of confrontation, the date of the trial is approaching. Thirty-six days of hearings are scheduled for the fall of 2022. But at the last minute, last August, an offer of $1.5 million was tabled. Under the circumstances, Ménard-Martin has chosen not to go to trial.

The risk, when you go to trial, is a risk of defeat all along the line, reminds Me Martin-Ménard. Faced with a highly contested case, the amount we sought was the highest possible.

Once the administration costs have been subtracted, the lawyers and other expenses related to the lawsuit, there is less than a million dollars left to be shared among hundreds of people.

A disappointing amount for Stéphanie Baulne, as for some other ex-patients such as Micheline Provost. I find that to be unreasonable for the damage they have done. Because we are far from the full reimbursement of their treatment, as well as the $ 15,000 in damages they originally claimed in the class action. It's crumbs that we will receive, deplores Stéphanie Baulne

Micheline Provost, ex-patient of Zero Gravity Chiropractic Clinics

The law firm shares the frustration of some former clients of Zero Gravity Clinics, but believes the battle was worth it the shot. I think that to advance the law, it takes files like that, says Me Martin-Ménard. Each of these files will contribute in their own way to advancing patients' rights.

We will never know which of the two parties was right, since the Court did not have to decide. One thing is certain, the lawyers for the chiropractors and the insurance companies were ready to defeat the arguments submitted by the Ménard-Marin firm. Coming out of a courtroom, one of these lawyers even told us that we should have won this trial.

The agreement has was approved by all the participants during an information session held last November. Challenged by three ex-patients, including one in writing, it was submitted to judge Suzanne Courchesne, who approved it despite the relatively modest nature of the compensation, she specified in her judgment.

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According to its assessment, depending on the number of claimants, the amounts to be paid vary from $250 to $1,800 per person. Only patients who received more than seven treatments after May 4, 2010 are deemed to be class members. Documentary evidence must be submitted to Ménard-Martin.

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