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COA: Plaintiff class in FSSA suit too broad

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of certification of a proposed class suing the Family and Social Services Administration because plaintiffs believed the modernized public benefits program system has a disparate impact on people with disabilities. Even though the contract with the company providing the system was terminated earlier this month, the parties don't claim this action alters their appeal.

In Sheila Perdue, et al., v. Anne Waltermann Murphy, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, et al., No. 49A02-0901-CV-8, the appellate court determined the current class was too broad but remanded for the trial court to determine whether a more specific class to sustain the Americans with Disabilities Act action can be defined.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration contracted with IBM in March 2007 to provide welfare programs in the state. The process for obtaining food stamps, Medicaid, and other services changed; under the new system, clients weren't assigned individual caseworkers and electronic files were used instead of hard copies. The determination of eligibility under this new system also changed.

Sheila Perdue was enrolled in the food stamp and Medicaid for Disabled programs, but after IBM took over, she was denied food stamps and Medicaid under the new requirements. Perdue and others filed suit against the FSSA and represent three classes and one subclass claiming violations of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All were certified except Class B, the one at issue in the instant case; the trial court denied certifying the class, which led to this interlocutory appeal.

The trial court deemed the instant action as a series of individual ADA/RA actions that would require mini-trials and individualized inquires before class membership could be established. The Court of Appeals agreed, citing the recent decision in Hohider v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 574 F.3d 169, 200 (3d Cir. 2009), in which the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held the individualized inquiries necessary to determine ADA eligibility rendered class certification improper, even if plaintiffs were only seeking injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The plaintiffs need to be evaluated to see if they were "qualified" as required under the ADA.

Class B names no unifying or limiting conditions suffered or accommodations/modifications sought to allow classwide evaluation of whether they are "qualified" under the ADA such that discrimination against them on the basis of their disabilities is unlawful, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.

"Without such limiting conditions, we conclude, pursuant to Hohider, that the necessary inquiries to establish the alleged discrimination in the instant case are too individualized and divergent to warrant certification," he wrote.

However, it may be possible to define a more limited class of people challenging the FSSA's policy under the ADA that would be appropriate for class certification. A class action can't be maintained without a properly defined class, but a court can redefine the class in order to sustain the lawsuit, wrote Judge Bradford.

The state announced Oct. 15 that it terminated the contract with IBM for the delivery of welfare services because the company didn't make satisfactory progress to improve services to applicants and recipients under a plan to correct deficiencies.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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