Lawsuit Eight Years in the Making Goes to Trial

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Why would a 22-year-old man end up living in a nursing home for 13 years?

Richard Krause, now 38, lived in one from 2001 to 2014. While there, he mostly stayed in bed and could not use the bathroom on his own. He is one of about 3,600 Texans that disability rights advocates say the state has illegally left to languish in nursing homes.

The Nursing Home Reform Amendment to the Medicaid Act requires states to screen residents of nursing homes for developmental disabilities to see if their needs can be served in a less restrictive setting in the community and to offer services to allow them to live as independently as possible and prevent loss of abilities.

Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) asserts the state is in violation of that law.

In 2010, DRTx filed a lawsuit against the state for these actions on behalf of several individuals and organizational plaintiffs The Arc of Texas and The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, claiming Texas violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Medicaid Act. A few years later the suit was classified as a class action, and the U.S. Department of Justice eventually joined, siding with the plaintiffs.

Though an interim settlement was reached in 2013 and the suit was put on hold for two years, the agreement ended in 2015.

The case finally went to trial in a U.S. district court in San Antonio on October 16 and ended yesterday. A decision from the judge is expected next year.

Richard Krause was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. After finally leaving the nursing home, he is now working, getting around on his own using a wheelchair, and able to use the bathroom on his own.

“It was…because of the advocacy of Disability Rights Texas…and because he was a named plaintiff that his life changed,” said co-counsel Steven Schwartz with the Center for Public Representation. “For the other 3,600 people still in nursing homes, little has changed.”

Disability Rights Texas would like to thank the individual plaintiffs and their loved ones as well as The Arc of Texas and The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities for their unwavering commitment to the lengthy legal process. We would also like to thank Steven Schwartz with the Center for Public Representation and our pro-bono counsel from Sidley Austin LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP.

DRTx supervising attorney Sean Jackson and senior attorney Garth Corbett served as lead counsel on the case, with litigation secretary Marisol McNair providing support before and during trial. Advocates and attorneys from our community integration team worked countless hours to prepare information for the case. A special thank you to policy specialist Susan Murphree, advocates Sherry Hartsfield, Ernesto Sanchez and Shelly Voss, and attorney Edwin Marino for their invaluable assistance in preparing the case.

As we wait for the judge’s decision, we will continue to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to live independently in the community with appropriate supports and services.