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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Disability Rights Florida v. Crews PC-FL-0021
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-23323 ( S.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Prison Legal News
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Case Summary
On September 9, 2014, Disability Rights Florida filed this lawsuit on behalf of its clients and constituents, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (under the Eighth Amendment), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the ... read more >
On September 9, 2014, Disability Rights Florida filed this lawsuit on behalf of its clients and constituents, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (under the Eighth Amendment), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the federal Rehabilitation Act, against Wexford Health Sources and the Florida Department of Corrections. The Plaintiff, represented by private and public interest counsel, asked the court for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming abuse and discrimination against inmates with mental illness as well as inadequate care for such inmates. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that officials at Dade Correctional Institution (Dade CI) subjected inmates with serious mental illness in their inpatient mental health units to physical beatings, verbal harassment, deprivation of food, and torture. Plaintiff claimed that defendant Secretary was on notice of these conditions and failed to investigate the allegations of abuse and adequately punish those responsible.

Disability Rights Florida, the Plaintiff, is a federally-mandated protection and advocacy system tasked with the responsibility of protecting the rights of individuals with mental illness in the state. First, Plaintiff requested that the court declare the Defendants's conduct unlawful and unconstitutional. Second, Plaintiff requested an injunction requiring the defendant Secretary to: cease all actions that violate the constitutional and statutory rights of mentally ill inmates at the Dade CI inpatient unit, take immediate action to investigate and stop the ongoing abuse of such inmates, train and supervise officers assigned to the unit, develop a system of periodic independent oversight of the unit, and take immediate steps to ensure timely investigations of abuse upon these inmates. Third, Plaintiff requested an injunction requiring Defendant Wexford to mandate that its employees report allegations of abuse and ensure that inmates with mental illness receive adequate care. Fourth and finally, Plaintiff requested an injunction requiring the Florida Department of Corrections to stop discriminating against inmates in the Dade CI inpatient unit on the basis of disability.

On November 14, 2014, the court issued an order consolidating this case with a related case (1:14-cv-24140-RNS), which was at that time in the early stages of litigation. That case involved the death of a mentally-ill man incarcerated in FDOC after he was forced into a scalding hot shower for hours. His estate brought claims against the FDOC, warden Jerry Cummings, and other officials. Plaintiff alleged violations of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and sought damages.

On April 10, 2015, the parties submitted a "private settlement agreement" to the Court; Judge Scola approved it on April 14. Among the terms of the settlement agreement:
  • The state agreed to provide Crisis Intervention Training to all staff at Dade CI.
  • The State will provide specialized training for correctional officers who work directly with inmates with mental illnesses.
  • The state agreed to upgrade its video monitoring system and begin a pilot program for an audio monitoring system.
  • The State agreed to try to provide full staffing at Dade CI.
  • An additional Assistant Warden position will be created at Dade CI to oversee issues involving individuals with mental illnesses.
  • A Mental Health Ombudsman position will be created at DOC's central office and at the Region III office. These positions are intended lead and supervise mental health care.
  • The State agreed to install televisions in the common areas of the inpatient units at Dade CI for both therapeutic and recreational activities.
  • The contractor for mental health services at Dade CI, Wexford Health Sources, agreed to implement all of these provisions, provide training, hire additional behavioral health staff, and conduct internal and external audits of its program.
  • A team of psychiatrists and security experts will visit Dade CI and will review records, observe therapeutic and non-therapeutic activities, and evaluate the safeguards against abuse and neglect at the facility. The experts will then make recommendations for any needed changes and improvements.

The parties agreed to continue to monitor compliance with the agreement through May of 2017.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, it was not court enforceable. However, the court was to retain jurisdiction over the matter for 6 months, and during that time, the plaintiff could seek to reopen the case and resume the litigation if the state materially breached the agreement. The agreement defined material breach to mean systemic deficiencies in implementation.

On February 1, 2016, the plaintiff in the case that was consolidated with this case, Chapman v. Florida Department of Corrections (1:14-cv-24140-RNS), moved to reopen the case. He also moved to have the stay on litigation that was entered with the settlement agreement lifted and to commence discovery. Plaintiff argued that the settlement agreement had no bearing on the issues addressed in its complaint.

The court found that, because the last stay applicable to the consolidated actions expired on March 16, 2015, the case related to the Chapman Estate should have automatically reopened on that date. Judge Scola ordered the matter reopened and ordered defendants to respond to the complaint by April 4, 2016.

On April 12, defendant answered plaintiff's complaint, raising several affirmative defenses, including failure to state a cause of action, failure to state a claim, and that the FDC was entitled to sovereign immunity for all damages. On May 16, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The FDC and warden Jerry Cummings subsequently filed motions to dismiss on July 1, 2016. Meanwhile, discovery commenced.

On October 28, 2016, Judge Scola granted the FDC's motion to dismiss while denying that of warden Cummings. As to Cummings, the court found that plaintiff had stated a plausible claim of supervisory liability based on the warden's alleged knowledge of widespread abuse of mentally ill inmates at Dade CI. As to the FDC, the court dismissed the ADA and Rehab Act claims brought by the decedent's surviving family members for lack of standing, but upheld the same claims as brought by his estate.

Discovery continued and, after the parties were unsuccessful during mediation proceedings, a trial was scheduled for March, 2018.

Meanwhile, the parties in the Disability Rights case jointly moved the court to dismiss that portion of the consolidated case with prejudice. Judge Scola did so on November 8. 2017, but clarified that the dismissal did not affect the ongoing litigation between the Chapman Estate and the FDC defendants.

However, on January 17, 2018, the remaining parties notified the court that they had settled the case privately and in full. The court ordered the case administratively closed that day.

As of March 18, 2018, the case remains administratively closed, with the court retaining jurisdiction to resolve any issues relating to attorneys' fees or distribution of the settlement payment. There is a dispute between the various attorneys who represented the plaintiff in the Chapman case about the proper allocation of attorneys' fees. The attorneys involved are currently negotiating the matter.

Spencer Klein - 02/08/2015
Lauren Latterell Powell - 03/18/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Hire
Monitoring
Recordkeeping
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Counseling
Failure to supervise
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Torture
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 10801
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Florida Department of Corrections
Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Disability Rights Florida is an organization empowered by federal law to, among other things, file suit to protect the rights of individuals with mental illness who are in the custody of the state.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2015 - 2017
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:14-cv-23323 (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint For Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-FL-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/09/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 34]
PC-FL-0021-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/18/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Last Amended Complaint [ECF# 46]
PC-FL-0021-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/23/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Administrative Closure of Case [ECF# 59]
PC-FL-0021-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Administratively Closing Case Upon Notice of Settlement [ECF# 61] (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/15/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Omnibus Order on Motions to Dismiss [ECF# 145] (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Dismissal of the Disability Rights Case Only [ECF# 232] (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Mediation Report [ECF# 241]
PC-FL-0021-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/17/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Administratively Closing Case Upon Notice of Settlement [ECF# 242] (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/17/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Otazo-Reyes, Alicia M. Court not on record [Magistrate]
PC-FL-0021-9000
Scola, Robert Nichols Jr. (S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0021-0004 | PC-FL-0021-0006 | PC-FL-0021-0007 | PC-FL-0021-0009 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boyer, David Allen (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0001 | PC-FL-0021-0002 | PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-0005 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Lentz, Kristen Cooley (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0002 | PC-FL-0021-0005 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Paris, Molly Jean (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0001 | PC-FL-0021-0002 | PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-0005 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Schulz, George E. Jr. (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0001 | PC-FL-0021-0002 | PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Sleasman, Peter P. (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0001 | PC-FL-0021-0002 | PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-0005 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bondi, Pamela Jo (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0003
Desai, Devang B (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Maher, Susan Adams (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-0003 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Marrero, Oscar Edmund (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Marsh, J. Lee (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Neff, Lance Eric (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Sheeran, Andrew T (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Stinson, Monica Galindo (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Tietig, Lisa Kuhlman (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Toomey, Gregg Alan (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Weissenborn, Sheridan K. (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Wydler, Lourdes Espino (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000 | PC-FL-0021-9000
Other Lawyers Commons, Linda Bellomio (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Grimes, Milton C. (California)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Hoffman, Paul L. (California)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Jackson, Iverson Matthew (California)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Newman, Annette (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Price, Max Richard (Florida)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Sarmiento, Vicki I. (California)
PC-FL-0021-9000
Sweetser, Catherine Elizabeth (California)
PC-FL-0021-9000

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