After the pandemic, many relatives of victims have taken legal action to shed light on the causes and circumstances of these deaths.
One Wednesday in November 2020, a couple rang the doorbell of Bernadette, a resident of Nevers, 80 years old and several comorbidities. Containment has been declared for a week, but her niece in law pays an unexpected visit to the octogenarian and her husband to help with the gardening. The next day, Bernadette calls her daughter, panicked: “They have just tested positive!” The couple were in contact, and had performed the test before visiting the old lady. Without waiting for the results. Tested positive in turn a few days after the meeting, Bernadette died a month later of covid-19. Fabienne Condamin, her daughter, filed a complaint for “Manslaughter for negligence”. “They did not respect the isolation instructions for contact cases, they violated the confinement and endangered an elderly person, who died of it, she storms. This pandemic calls for collective and individual responsibility. People need to protect themselves and take care of others. This is what we need to learn from this crisis. These situations cannot happen again. ”
“At work, barrier gestures were far from the rule”
Nassera Benhamou, whose mother was infected at the town hall of Aix-en-Provence
Can we hold someone responsible for Covid-19 contamination? After the first waves, it is time to take stock. The relatives of the victims are looking for responsibility. “I have been contacted by hundreds of people who wish to file a complaint against others or against an institution. In most cases, they want the light to be shed on the death and accountability to be established ”, explains Michel Parigot, president of the Coronavictimes association which supports families in their legal proceedings. “The pandemic has created situations of impossible mourning. People were unable to accompany their loved ones and feel guilty. They need to know who is causing it, how and why. ”
Complaints against individuals remain rare. Most of the time, they concern employers or institutions. Nassera Benhamou intends to sue the town hall of Aix-en-Provence, where her mother was infected last April. The 61-year-old municipal worker died three weeks later. “My mother was very very very careful, she took care of everything”, assures Nassera Benhamou. Badly worn mask, pot with colleagues, poorly ventilated lunch areas: in the premises of the town hall, barrier gestures “Were far from being the rule, according to Nassera Benhamou. The negligence is proven. I want those responsible for the contamination to pay, they are responsible for my mother’s death. “
Shedding light on deaths
Determining responsibilities in a pandemic context is no easy task: “In the case of a complaint against an individual, it is necessary to be able to demonstrate a direct causal link for the contamination. It can be very long, and very complicated to prove», Explains lawyer Sylvie Personnic. In the case of a nosocomial infection in an nursing home or a hospital, it is less a question of punishing than of shedding light on the unfolding of the facts. “There is a whole chain of responsibilities that make it difficult to pin down the culprits. For example, hospital contamination is linked to the overcrowding of establishments, lack of resources, the impossibility, sometimes, for sick caregivers to be replaced … The risk is that the responsibilities at the highest level are obscured», Explains Michel Parigot.
On Wednesday, the summary judge of the Judicial Court of Paris will render his decision on the collective action in the summons resulting from a collective action launched by nearly 600 people and associations. They ask for access to information relating to the health crisis during the first confinement, held by the Ministry of Health, several public bodies, nursing homes and leading groups in mass distribution. “Very concretely, we want to ask Carrefour and Leclerc on what date the masks arrived on French territory in order to understand why France lacked a mask”, details the lawyer Christophe Lèguevaque, at the origin of this probationary summary. “In my mother’s nursing home, no one wore masks during the first wave. There have been about thirty cases, underlines Sabrina Deliry, co-founder of the circle of caregivers in nursing homes. This collective action must provide answers in order to then file a complaint. We want transparency. ”