The Washington Supreme Court today upheld a $57 million dollar jury verdict for 22,000in-home care providers against the State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). With the interest since the trial, the State will pay nearly $80 million dollars in total. In April 2003, DSHS began cutting 15% of paid care hours for all disabled people with care givers who lived in the same home, under a policy called the Shared Living Rule. Under this rule, DSHS would pay 100% of benefits to disabled people who chose providers who lived out of the home, but only 85% for disabled people with live-in providers.
DSHS continued to eliminate these benefits despite a superior court ruling in 2005 that invalidated the Shared Living Rule on the basis that DSHS violated Federal Medicaid law requiring DSHS to treat groups of disabled people similarly.
In December 2010, a Thurston County jury determined that DSHS breached the contracts with the care providers by using the Shared Living Rule, awarding $57 million in damages. The State chose to appeal the verdict, and oral arguments were back in May, 2013. The Supreme Court’s decision preserved the jury verdict in its entirety, eliminated pre-judgment interest but upheld the award of post-judgment interest.
Read the Supreme Court’s Opinion HERE
Many of you are wondering “When will we receive a check?” Here are the deadlines you will want to track.
The State of Washington may decide to ask the state supreme court to reconsider its decision. The State has 30 days to file a motion for reconsideration. The Court may quickly reject the motion or call for further briefing from us. If there is a motion for reconsideration, we should expect three months to pass before that matter is resolved.
The State may also consider filing a petition to the United States Supreme Court to hear the case though the decision is based on a state law breach of contract claim and wildly unlikely to garner any interest from the US Supreme Court. It’s doubtful the State bothers with this effort.
We then have to wait for the “remand” of the case, which means the official end of the appeal and release back to the trial court. The trial court still has to make final arrangements for the company that will be hired to administer the funds and finalize the distribution plans for the money. We will be making every effort the Court allows to ensure as many class members as possible get direct notice of the judgment amounts. The Court will then require the State to pay and we can proceed to distribution.
It is wise to assume checks to individuals will not flow out until early 2015 though it is possible it all gets done much quicker and we make it by Christmas of this year. We certainly hope we can help make that happen.
Supreme Court Decision News Coverage