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
Update: The opinion from the Washington Supreme Court should be released tomorrow. Below is the Washington Courts website, where the opinion will be posted. We will also email a copy to everyone once received.
There’s no new information to report. We expect the Supreme Court decision to come out in April 2014. Stay tuned.
Rekhter v. DSHS lawsuit has been scheduled for a Washington State Supreme Court hearing, set for May 14, 2013. This will be the final chance for the State to try and reverse the $95,000,000+ judgment. You’ll be able to watch the arguments live when they happen by logging on to www.tvw.org. As we get closer to the date, we’ll send out a reminder email and post a link to TVW. Comments will also be posted while it happens, on PCVA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pcvalaw).
This is the first and only time we’ll be arguing at the Washington State Supreme Court in this case. If you’re watching live, you’ll hear a lot about precedents (opinions heard in older cases that have similar issues to this case) and how they relate to this case. The overall procedure is:
- Nine Supreme Court Justices will hear arguments from each side.
- 20-30 minutes is given each side to present and rebut their case.
- The Justices will ask questions of the lawyers during the arguments.
- Rulings occur six to eighteen months after the hearing.
Be sure to set TVW as a favorite in your web browser so you can tune in and watch the arguments live on May 14.
Today, Judge Thomas McPhee awarded more than $95 million to our in-home care providers in the class action case of Rekhter v. State of Washington. In his ruling, Judge McPhee affirmed the original $57 million verdict from a Thurston County jury delivered back in February, and then added an additional $38 million in interest covering the 5-year timeframe when DSHS in-home care providers’ compensation was unlawfully cut by the State.
DSHS now has 30 days to appeal the final judgments (January 3). Based upon its prior actions, we anticipate DSHS will appeal straight to Washington’s Supreme Court. That process could take anywhere from a year and a half to two years or more. Washington’s Supreme Court tries to get opinions out within about 18 months from the date of an appeal (on average), but, in reality, they have as long as necessary to get their opinions out. Being a large case and public funds involved, the Justices could take their time with the appellate review. In the meantime, the judgment will collect 12% in interest, amount to roughly $30,000 per day on the total amount of the judgment. We will keep you posted as developments unfold.
We at PCVA are very proud to represent all of you. Your patience through this long and sometimes difficult process has been greatly appreciated. If you have any further problems with DSHS, the State of Washington or if you have any other legal matter where you feel your rights have been violated, please give us a call.
Read the 2011-12-02 FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Read the 2011-11-02 AMENDED FINAL JUDGMENT ON JURY VERDICT – PROVIDER CLASS
Read the 2011-12-02 FINAL JUDGMENT – CLIENT CLASS
Seattle Times: Judge: DSHS owes $96 million to caregivers
Recently, on July 1, 2011, Judge McPhee ruled in our favor and awarded pre and post-judgment interest to the class. What does this mean? Our accountant expert has calculated prejudgment interest on the Jury’s verdict at over $30 million dollars (a preliminary estimate). This would be added to the Jury’s verdict. Therefore, we believe that the total judgment now likely exceeds $90 million. In addition, post-judgment interest at a rate of 12% per annum will be applied to the judgment on a going forward basis. This could be up to $900K per month in post-judgment interest (another preliminary estimate).
What happens next? Judge McPhee will prepare his Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law (“FFCL”) on the Beneficiary Class claim. Both sides have submitted their proposed FFCL to Judge McPhee for review.
We really appreciate your continued patience with the process. As complex and as important as this case is to everyone involved, the process moves very deliberately and probably frustratingly slow for many of you. Based upon the Court’s scheduling, it may take another six months before final judgment is entered. As judge McPhee indicated at an earlier hearing, he is taking a very careful and deliberate approach because the case involves the public’s money. Rest assured, however, that we are doing everything possible to try and push everything to final resolution as quickly as possible.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call or email me.
Darrell L. Cochran is a Tacoma attorney who specializes in Government Liability claims. Contact us today to discuss your potential case and schedule a free consultation.
The verdict for class plaintiffs in Rekhter v DSHS was for $57,123,795 and ranked 35th of VerdictSearch’s Top 100 Verdicts of 2010. See the complete list below:
As many of you may have read in an earlier posting, the State asked us to discuss settlement with them on February 9th and 10th in a formal process in front of a retired judge called “mediation”. We agreed to mediate the case and participated in good faith but, after two solid days of talks, the parties could not reach an agreement. Our goal is to protect the verdict for all of you and balance the risk of potential appellate court review of the trial court decisions and, ultimately, we felt the State’s position discounted the verdict and trial court decisions too heavily.
The next step for us happens this Friday, February 18th, when we enter judgment against the State for the $57 million verdict. This starts the process for the State’s deadline to appeal and also starts the clock running on the interest on the verdict. We will provide an update after that hearing on Friday.
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) approached the class representative and class counsel several weeks ago and asked us to consider a settlement of the case before it files its appeal of the jury verdict and court decisions. W know that the class members have waited a long time for justice in this case. We want to make sure we get the best outcome for our clients. We want to explore any and all options to do so. We believe it is in the best interests of the class to explore whether the State has a reasonable offer at this time because the appeals process can take anywhere from a year and a half to three years before we learn whether the court system will allow us to recover the back wages owed in this case.
With that in mind, tomorrow and Thursday the lead attorneys and class representatives in the Rekhter v. DSHS class action lawsuit will be engaging with DSHS in a process known as mediation. Mediation is an attempt to come to a settlement agreement led by a neutral third-party, called the mediator. In mediation, both sides present proposals for a fair settlement. The mediator shuttles back and forth between the parties in order to bridge the gap between the alternate proposals. In this case, the mediator is a retired superior court judge. The process takes some time; this mediation is scheduled for two days. The mediator’s job is to bring the parties together. If a settlement is reached, the class will receive formal notice by mail and publication. However, if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the appeal process would continue as planned.
Please continue to visit our web site for additional updates with regard to this class action. We will post updates regarding any significant developments in the case.