Historical Cases

 

Below are a few selected cases. We have not listed all of the individuals with disabilities we have represented.

 

Parrales et al. v. Dudek, 2015 WL 13373978 (N.D. Fla. 2015). Five individuals with disabilities challenged the State’s implementation of the Long-Term Care Medicaid Waiver program by private managed care organizations, which were arbitrarily denying needed services in the community. In a mediated settlement, the State agreed to: 1) adopt rules setting out requirements for coverage of long-term care services; 2) adopt new assessment procedure that takes into account availability, willingness and ability of voluntary caregivers; 3) change health plan member handbooks to clarify enrollee rights and how to file consumer complaints; 4) train health plans, hearing officers, state staff and others on the new requirements; and 5) implement new monitoring and evaluation to assure quality and sufficiency of services to ensure people can remain safely in the community. This will impact more than 94,000 enrollees in all six health plans now operating in Florida to provide Medicaid services through the Long-Term Care Program. Co-Counsel: Nancy E. Wright & Disability Rights Florida.

 

Moreland et al. v. Palmer (N.D. Fla. 2013). In a statewide class action, persons with developmental disabilities challenged the adequacy of notices being used to reduce services in a new Medicaid Waiver program - the iBudget program. A mediated settlement resulted in: 1) cessation of arbitrary reductions of services; 2) reinstatement of millions of dollars in benefits for settlement class, impacting thousands of people; 3) policy changes to ensure notice is sent to both the person and his/her legal representative; and 4) policy changes to provide notices in English and in the person’s primary language. Co-Counsel: Nancy E. Wright.

 

Long et al. v. Benson et al., 2008 WL 4571903 (granting preliminary injunction), 2008 WL 4571904 (certifying class) (N.D. Fla., J. Hinkle 2008), 383 Fed. Appx. 930 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming preliminary injunction). Statewide class action challenged the State’s lack of services in the community for Medicaid nursing home residents who wanted to live in the community. Claim was under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which require states to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual. A mediated settlement established a statewide Medicaid nursing home transition program that provides funding for people in nursing homes to receive services in the community. Approximately 8,500 people with disabilities in nursing homes each year want to move into the community with appropriate services. The Legislature authorized $27 million for the transition program in 2009-10, which later was permanently funded, which has saved taxpayers millions of dollars as it is less expensive to serve to provide services in the community than it is institutions. Co-Counsel: Steve Gold, AARP Foundation Litigation & National Health Law Program.

 

London, et al., v. Agwunobi & Johnson (N.D. Fla., R. Hinkle 2007). Individuals with developmental disabilities challenged a new state statutory cap on personal care assistance (PCA) under due process and the Medicaid Act. The Florida Legislature amended the statute to eliminate an outright cap on PCA for adults in community settings. PCA for children was transferred to the state Medicaid program to avoid the Medicaid waiver service limitations and to comply with the Medicaid Act’s mandates under Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT). Plaintiffs then voluntarily dismissed the case. Co-counsel: Florida Legal Services, Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities & National Health Law Program.

 

Dubois v. Calamas & Francois (N.D. Fla. 2006). Statewide class action challenging State’s administration and waiting list for the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Medicaid Waiver Program. Developed new Handbook and Operating Procedures on freedom of choice and due process rights. Additional funding to expand the Program by a minimum of 200 slots over 3 years. Co-counsel: Legal Advocacy Center of Central Florida & National Health Law Program.

 

Sosa, et al., v. Agency for Health Care Admin. (Fla. Div. of Admin. Hrgs, C. Arrington 2008) Sosa challenged a proposed agency rule that would have limited personal care assistance to 300 hours per month, regardless of medical need. We settled the case, and AHCA amended the proposed rule to eliminate the 300 hour limit. Co-counsel: Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities.

 

Canupp, et al. v. Liberty Behavioral Health Corp. (M.D. Fla., J. Covington 2004). This class action challenged the lack of an effective treatment regimen and adequate mental health care at the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC). Approximately 450 men are currently detained at FCCC, with more arriving every day, under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act. The State’s failure to provide constitutionally adequate treatment makes their confinement essentially a life sentence. The Court certified the case as a class and created two sub-classes. A mediated settlement was reached. The Department of Children and Families did not agree to an enforceable settlement, but promised the following in a written settlement plan: improvements to the oversight and staffing of the inpatient mental health unit, the creation of policies addressing the screening and referral process for the use of anti-androgens, comprehensive discharge planning for Phase IV residents, improvements to the special track of treatment, and improved training for clinical staff and TST housing staff. The settlement plan explains what the Defendant will do to address each issue, when the improvements will happen, and who is responsible for making sure the improvements occur. Co-Counsel: Florida Institutional Legal Services.

 

Parker v. King-Shaw, Jr. & Kearney (N.D. Fla., J. Hinkle 1999). We represented an individual who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident and medically needed a ventilator to breathe and a personal care attendant. The State’s Medicaid policy only provided the ventilator services and a personal care attendant in a nursing home or hospital, but not in a home. We challenged this policy through a preliminary injunction request alleging violations of the federal Medicaid Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. After a status conference, the parties settled and the State agreed to provide all needed services in the home. The State subsequently provided the services as part of its Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waiver program for individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries. Co-counsel: Florida Legal Services & Northwest Florida Legal Services.

 

Armstead v. Coler (M.D. Fla.1996). This class action was originally brought by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) challenging the State of Florida's practice of housing persons with developmental disabilities at Northeast Florida State Hospital at Macclenny, a facility for persons with mental illness. We entered our appearance in 1996 to monitor the implementation of the Compliance Plan, which includes provisions for the care and treatment of class members at NEFSH, appropriate discharges from NEFSH, and appropriate community services after discharge.

 

Bridges v. Sandstrom (S.D. Fla., J. Hoeveler). We participated as amicus curiae in a long-standing suit challenging the treatment of persons with mental illness (often homeless persons) in the Dade County jail system. Our nationally recognized experts prepared a short-term plan which was adopted by the Court and implemented by Defendant Dade County to improve conditions. $945,000 was allocated for implementation of the expert's short-term plan. An additional $350,000 was allocated for a total increase in staff which more than doubled existing staff. Additionally, defendants completed necessary renovations on the floor that housed many of our clients. Defendants approved the most significant recommendation of our expert on diversion, which will steer homeless persons with mental illness away from the jail to housing in the community and assist them to negotiate the criminal system. Co-counsel: Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities.

 

Sanbourne v. Bush, Case No. 89-6283-Civ-Nesbitt (S.D. Fla., J. Nesbitt), originally filed as Gonzalez v. Martinez; summary judgment denial reported at 756 F.Supp. 1533 (S.D. Fla. 1991). Class action involving the care and treatment of persons with mental illness confined to South Florida State Hospital (SFSH) and living in the South Florida community. The complaint alleged that the residents did not receive minimally adequate care at SFSH, and that the conditions at SFSH were physically and emotionally debilitating, causing the deterioration rather than the rehabilitation of the patients placed there. Specifically, individuals had a complete lack both of privacy and of control over the most basic and routine aspects of life, including routine group nakedness, a failure to provide personal clothing for patients, instead of ill-fitting, soiled "communal" clothing, inadequate dental care, and abusive staff. The case originally settled in 1993, with the State agreeing to correct the deficiencies at SFSH and to seek funding to improve the mental health services available in the community. After several suspicious deaths at SFSH, motions for contempt were brought on medical and treatment issues. The final settlement approved in 1999 required defendants to hire an independent consultant/monitor for a period of six months, conduct independent reviews of deaths until February 28, 2000, and provide SLC with documents which permitted the monitoring of conditions at the institution. Co-counsel: Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities.

 

Van Swearingen v. Florida Health & Rehab. Services (Fla. Div. Admin. Hrgs. 1991). Represented client with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare debilitating genetic disorder which manifests in an uncontrollable and continual desire to eat. Client’s condition had deteriorated to a crisis, life-threatening situation. We filed an administrative proceeding to require Florida Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services (HRS) to place him in an appropriate group home as he had been on a waiting list for about 7 years. HRS offered a settlement placement on the day we deposed the District XI Developmental Services Program Administrator. Our expert found the offered placement to be physically and programmatically highly inappropriate, so no settlement was reached. On the eve of trial, agreement reached for HRS to open a new group home specifically for persons with Prader-Willi Syndrome operated by United Cerebral Palsy. Co-counsel: Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities.

 

S.H. v. Edwards, 886 F.2d 292 (11th Cir. 1989) (en banc). Represented amicus curiae National Association of Protection & Advocacy Systems (P&As) and all former Fifth Circuit P&A's in case involving the issue of the right to habilitation of a class of individuals with developmental disabilities in the least restrictive environment.

 

LeClair v. Williams (N.D. Fla. 1983). Trading wrongful death damages against the State on behalf of one person to obtain policy reform that protected hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in the future is a classic example of SLC’s innovative legal advocacy. A woman with severe disabilities died from a lithium overdose during an experimental drug treatment program at a Gainesville institution for persons with developmental disabilities. To prevent more unnecessary deaths, SLC filed a lawsuit that changed policy, resulting in a rule regarding the proper administration of psychotropic drugs that applied to all state institutions.

 

State v. Kinner, 382 So. 2d 756 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980), rev’d, 398 So. 2d 1360 (Fla. 1981), reported in 4 ABA Mental Disab. L. Rptr. 324 (1980). At the request of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, represented a class of developmentally disabled persons as amicus curiae in a case which challenged the constitutionality of Florida's statutory provision allowing for involuntary commitment of developmentally disabled persons to residential facilities. After the DCA found the provision unconstitutional, the Legislature amended the statute in a manner consistent with the position argued in the brief. Co-counsel: Governor's Commission on Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

 

Florida Ass’n for Retarded Citizens v. Martinez, Case No. 79-418-Orl-Civ-18 (M.D. Fla., JJ. Young, Kovachevich & Sharp). Major decrees entered in Oct. 1982, June 1985, June 1986 & Nov. 1989; significant orders reported or summarized in 7 ABA Mental Disab. L. Rptr. 464-65 (1983); 7 ABA Mental Disab. L. Rptr. 57-62 (1983); 3 ABA Mental Disab. L. Rptr. 406-07 (1979). Florida Ass’n of Retarded Persons, Inc., v. Bush, 246 F.3d 1296 (11th Cir. 2001). We served as co-counsel in trial proceedings (retained by court appointed guardian ad litem to represent class) and as lead counsel on enforcement and compliance. In 1982, an injunction required phase down and ultimate closure of institution with concurrent development of a new system of residential settings for class members in their home communities. This was the first case in the United States to result in the judicially directed final closure of an institution for citizens with developmental disabilities. The new system of homes was required to be licensed under the federal "Intermediate Care Facility/Mentally Retarded." Prior to transfer to the new community facilities, class members were to be comprehensively assessed and provided physical therapy services, including new adaptive positioning devices to correct for progressive deformity due to historical absence of appropriate physical management. The injunction also required comprehensive assessment of class members being fed by tubes. The institution was obligated to restore normal eating whenever appropriate and to reduce dependence on artificial feeding. Subsequent court orders required outside independent evaluations by a court ordered nutritional management team. Court-appointed professional treatment teams implemented the physical and nutritional management requirements, and created a fabrication shop for the positioning devices because there was no other source for the devices.