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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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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