Class action denied in lawsuit for kids placed in nursing homes


News Service of Florida

A federal judge Wednesday rejected arguments that a lawsuit challenging Florida’s placement of severely disabled children in nursing homes should be a class action — but left open the possibility that it could become a class action in the future.

The lawsuit, filed last year on behalf of several plaintiffs, contends that Florida has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing children with complex medical needs in nursing homes instead of providing services in the children’s homes and communities.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs sought to make the case a class action on behalf of more than 3,300 children who are in nursing homes or at risk of such placements.

But U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum issued a six-page order Wednesday that at least temporarily sided with the state, which has sought to block a class action.

Rosenbaum wrote that without more information, it was not possible to determine whether class "certification" should be approved.

"If a systemic problem exists, the case may be appropriately handled as a class action,’’ the order said.

"If, however, the case involves a problem with the individualized application of the challenged policies in a handful of cases, class certification may not be appropriate. At this juncture, however, the record is not sufficiently developed for the court to be able to discern what may be the case."

While denying the motion for class certification Wednesday, Rosenbaum said the plaintiffs can renew the motion after conducting "discovery," a process of gathering details in lawsuits.

The lawsuit is one of two cases arguing that the state has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing disabled children in nursing homes.

The other case was filed this year by the U.S. Department of Justice. State officials have vehemently denied wrongdoing in the way they have provided services to the Medicaid-eligible children.

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