On July 7, 1982, a mentally disabled ward of the state of North Carolina, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of North Carolina in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by denying him treatment of his mental disabilities (intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia) in a less restrictive, more community-based setting.
On May 26, 1983, the parties agreed to a special treatment plan which provided appropriate community-based treatment for the plaintiff until March 1, 1984. That agreement was incorporated into a judgment by the court, and the court deferred ruling on all the parties' motions for summary judgment, designating the case as inactive until February 1, 1984. During the interim, the plaintiff was shifted to three additional placements. The defendants eventually placed him in the Gaston County detoxification facility because they had no other place for him to live.
On September 18, 1984, the court (Judge James Bryan McMillan) granted summary judgment to the plaintiff on his constitutional claims. The court held that the defendants, who had been appointed guardians of the plaintiff, were charged with the responsibility, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to ensure that legitimate restraints placed on the plaintiff were no more restrictive than necessary. Thomas S. by Brooks v. Morrow, 601 F.Supp. 1055 (W.D.N.C. 1984). The defendants appealed.
On December 7, 1984, the district court permitted the intervention of four additional plaintiffs and certified them as a class. However, the court stayed further litigation on behalf of the intervening plaintiffs and class members pending the outcome of the defendants' appeal. On January 9, 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Judge John Decker Butzner, Jr.) affirmed the district court's decision. Thomas S. v. Morrow, 781 F.2d 367 (4th Cir. 1986). The defendants appealed that decision, and on May 19, 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. Kirk v. Thomas S., 476 U.S. 1124 (1986).
On November 21, 1988, following trial, the district court (Judge McMillan) held that the defendants had violated the due process rights of the members of the plaintiff class. The court held that the plaintiffs had a constitutional right to live in a minimally adequate habilitation in a safe environment, free from undue bodily restraint. Thomas S. by Brooks v. Flaherty, 699 F.Supp. 1178 (W.D.N.C. 1988). The defendants appealed. On May 23, 1990, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Judge Butzner) affirmed the district court's decision. Thomas S. by Brooks v. Flaherty, 902 F.2d 250 (4th Cir. 1990). The defendants appealed. On October 29, 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. Flaherty v. Thomas S., 498 U.S. 951 (1990).
Several years later, the defendants asked the court to narrow the plaintiff class to include only those "treated clinically as mentally retarded." The district court (Judge McMillan) declined to narrow the class in that manner, and the defendants appealed. On July 15, 1993, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion affirming the district court's ruling. Thomas S. v. Flaherty, No. 93-1018, 1993 WL 264697 (4th Cir. 1993).
The parties continued to litigate regarding attorneys' fees, and on July 27, 1998, the district court closed the case.Kristen Sagar - 03/28/2007