Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) challenge to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's refusal to provide them with in-home attendant care services rather than nursing home care, in the fall of 1992, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. There were five plaintiffs in this case (Helen L., Beverly D., Ilene F., Florence H., and Idell S.) who were joined and dismissed at various times, depending on their institutionalization status. Each plaintiff had a physical disability and required assistance in carrying out daily activities. Doctors determined that it would be appropriate for each plaintiff to live at home with attendant care, but the state determined that such care would be too expensive and forced each plaintiff to remain in a state hospital in order to receive care.
The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking for home-based services on May 3, 1993. On June 25, the parties filed a stipulated statement of facts and cross motions for summary judgment, asking the court to resolve the legal issues based on the agreed-upon facts rather than proceeding to trial. Judge Thomas O'Neill of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued his decision on those motions on January 27, 1994, finding for the state defendants on the issue of whether community-based services were required. The plaintiffs had argued that the integration mandate of the ADA and its regulations (which require state government-provided services under Title II to be delivered in the most integrated setting possible) requires the provision of attendant care services in the community. Judge O'Neill disagreed, and held that states may choose how to structure their own benefits and may provide services in the setting they believe is appropriate. The ADA only prevents the denial of services on the basis of disability, not the structure or location of provision of those services. Here, the state had claimed that providing services in the community would cost more money. Judge O'Neill found this justification to be sufficient.
Plaintiff Helen L. also filed a motion for summary judgment on a constitutional claim, as she argued that the state had violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment Due Process Clause in holding her in an institution against her will. The district court held that there were issues of fact to resolve, and that parties should continue discovery.
The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on the issue of whether the ADA requires community-based services when appropriate. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in the case supporting the position of the plaintiffs. On January 31, 1995, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court and found that the plaintiffs had established a violation of the ADA. Judge Theodore McKee, writing for a three-judge panel, examined the text and history of the ADA and determined that Congress intended to prevent the warehousing of individuals with disabilities. The unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities violates the integration mandate of the ADA and its accompanying regulations. The Third Circuit declined to rehear this case on February 24, 1995. This decision was a landmark in disability rights law; it marked the first use of the integration mandate in a deinstitutionalization case. The Supreme Court declined to hear this case, 516 U.S. 813 (1995) (cert. denied), but the Court would later adopt similar reasoning in Olmstead v. L.C. ex. rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999).
On March 6, 1995, the case was remanded to the District Court with an instruction to enter a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants filed an answer shortly thereafter, but no additional litigation occurred; instead, on May 9, 1996, the plaintiffs seem to have filed a stipulation of dismissal of the lawsuit, which was accordingly dismissed on June 7, 1996. (Perhaps there was a settlement, but if so, its terms are not in the court filings.)Beth Kurtz - 10/19/2012