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DSHS Lawsuit Update: Supplemental Budget Passes Washington House

DSHS Lawsuit Update: Supplemental Budget Passes Washington House

KOMO News released a story yesterday stating that the Statehouse has passed an unusual supplemental budget to deal with several issues, including a lawsuit that PCVA and our partners in the case, Livengood Alskog, brought against the Department of Social and Health Services. We took that case to trial in December 2010 and won a verdict of over $57,000,000. As the article states, interest accrues at a rate of rougly $20,000 per day, so paying it off now is “better than waiting months…” The text of the article by AP reporter Derrick Nunnally is below:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – The Washington state House on Thursday agreed to spend nearly $300 million on a supplemental budget for expenses from last year’s wildfires and the deadly Oso landslide to social-services spending on child abuse and mental-health cases.

The supplemental budget bill passed the Democratic-controlled House on a bipartisan 83-15 vote. It now moves to the Senate, where Republicans lead the majority caucus, before going to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval. The money will cover a range of state programs, with the largest share going toward expenses from responding to natural disasters, including the mudslide and multiple wildfires in the eastern half of the state last summer.

“It’s a little unusual to do a supplemental budget this early in a legislative session, but last year was an unusual year,” Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said in a prepared statement.

Other money in the bill addresses lawsuits the state lost last year over the treatment of mentally ill patients and in-home care workers. The amount to pay off the caregiver lawsuit grows by $20,000 in interest each day, several lawmakers noted, which makes paying it off now better than waiting months for the Legislature to approve its full two-year budget later in the legislative session.

“We know we’re going to pay it in two to three months anyway,” said Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, who voted for the bill.

Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, voted against it and said the money to combat wildfires didn’t properly address a “complete and utter lack of management of public lands” that caused the fires to be so damaging.

“We’re doing nothing to take care of the issue,” Taylor said. “We’re just throwing more money at it, over and over.”

The same bill also moves up this year’s deadline for the state’s economic and revenue forecast to Feb. 20 in hopes of expediting a budget agreement in a year where lawmakers are trying to address a projected shortfall of more than $2 billion.

Read the article on KOMO News: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Supplemental-budget-passes-Washington-House-290274691.html

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Appeals over; Payment Expected Summer 2015

Appeals over; Payment Expected Summer 2015

We met with the State’s lawyers recently to discuss the status of the case.  The State’s lawyers indicated that they will no longer pursue any other avenues of appeal but plan on waiting to pay the judgment until July 2015, after the next budget is passed by the legislature.  This is quite a remarkable position to take since it means the State will incur about $9 million in interest over the next year.  It’s a good investment for the class but we know it is causing a tremendous hardship to many individuals.  We will continue pressing the State to make good on its debts now.  We will keep you updated.

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WA Supreme Court DENIES State’s Motion for Reconsideration

WA Supreme Court DENIES State’s Motion for Reconsideration

The Washington Supreme Court today denied the State of Washington’s motion to reconsider its ruling in favor of the Class Plaintiffs on their $57 million jury verdict with post-judgment interest. The judgment of roughly $90 million will stand.

Once finalized, the case will be returned to Thurston County Superior Court for final work to be completed on payment and the payment process that will be ordered by the court. The Court will determine the most appropriate way to make sure that the Class Members know about the result and the manner in which money will be distributed to the Class Members.

Please check in frequently here on the website for updated details as we move towards completion of this process.

Read the order from the Supreme Court here

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State files for reconsideration with Supreme Court

On April 23, 2014, the State filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reverse its recent decision that upheld a $57M jury verdict and allowed for $23M in post-judgment interest.  There are no published rules or timelines for the Court’s procedure to consider this new motion but it seems likely that we will not hear back about this motion for several months.  To read the State’s new motion, please click on the link below.

Appellants’ Mot for Reconsideration

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Supreme Court Ruling is in – $57M Verdict Upheld

Supreme Court Ruling is in – $57M Verdict Upheld

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 ruleDSHS 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

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$95 Million To In-Home Care Provider Class Action Members

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

News updates

Seattle Times: Judge: DSHS owes $96 million to caregivers

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DSHS Class Action – $57M Verdict For In-Home Care Providers

JURY AWARDS $57 MILLION VERDICT AGAINST STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES

IF YOU THINK YOU MAY BE A CLASS MEMBER AND WANT MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

Largest Award Ever Against State

A Thurston County jury today found that Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) short-changed about 22,000 home healthcare workers, and awarded the group $57 million in damages. The verdict followed a three week trial. DSHS underpaid the workers over a four year period. The workers filed a class action suit against DSHS in 2007, seeking payment of amounts DSHS wrongfully withheld. Today’s verdict represents the largest damage award ever against the State.

“The jury, after hearing from both the workers and Medicaid beneficiaries, and from DSHS personnel who implemented the pay reduction, found that DSHS breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing with the workers. This case has always been about whether DSHS should pay for work it required these folks to do,” said Greg McBroom of Livengood, Fitzgerald & Alskog, the lead law firm representing the plaintiffs. McBroom also represented the plaintiffs in one of the earlier cases striking down the DSHS rule. Jenkins v. DSHS, 160 Wn.2d 287, 157 P.2d 388 (2007)

“The jury’s decision means that 22,000 people, working from 2004-2008, for a little more than minimum wage, will be paid for all the hours DSHS required them to work,” said Darrell Cochran, of the Tacoma firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “While the total recovery is very large, the award to the workers amounts to about $2,500, on average. That $2,500 is a very large sum to someone making the minimum wage.”

DSHS administers Medicaid programs in Washington. In 2004, DSHS adopted a regulation that reduced pay for workers in the program by 15% if the worker lived with the person they were caring for. Workers who lived outside the home, performing the same services, received full pay for the services provided. Two trial courts struck down the DSHS rule shortly after it implemented the reduction. Even after the state Supreme Court also ruled against DSHS, the agency continued to underpay some workers for almost a year more.

The State will probably appeal the jury’s verdict said an attorney familiar with the case. If the State appeals, a final decision may be a year or two away. The Thurston county case is Rekhter v. DSHS, Docket no. 07-2-00895-8.

External Links:
http://www.theolympian.com/2010/12/21/1481355/caregivers-win-57m-award.html
http://www.kirklandviews.com/archives/23359
http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/12/20/1473239/jury-awards-57-millionbrto-home.html

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