Steward v. Abbott

Class action on behalf of over 4,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in nursing facilities in Texas, in violation of the ADA, § 504, the Medicaid Act, and the Nursing Home Reform Amendments to the Act.

In 2013, the parties negotiated an interim settlement that included community placements, enhanced services and admission diversions.  But a new governor refused to sign a comprehensive final agreement that had been negotiated between the parties and the United States.  As a result, the case was actively litigated over the next five years, after the court denied the State’s motion to dismiss and certified a class.

Notably, the class includes three men, now in their 60s, who were among a few dozen Texans with disabilities sent to work on a turkey farm in Iowa in the 1970s.  Their harrowing life was memorialized by New York Times writer Dan Barry in a 2014 expose and a book titled “The Boys in the Bunkhouse” – described by his publisher as a “Dickensian tale of the exploitation and abuse of a resilient group of men with intellectual disability.”  The turkey farm has shut down, but the men are now stuck in a nursing facility.  Many class members have suffered further harm during what the plaintiffs’ expert called their “medically unjustified institutionalizations” as well as the pervasive lack of active treatment.   The plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on their PASRR and NHRA claims, which was heard in June 2017.

After extensive expert discovery, the Court oversaw a five-week trial in October-November 2018, and then received the parties’ proposed findings and conclusions in February 2019. 

Co-counsel include Disability Rights Texas and Sidley Austin, LLP; the United States Department of Justice is the plaintiff-intervenor.