Filed Date: July 10, 2009
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On July 10, 2009, mental health patients at Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a state facility, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Minnesota state law against the Minnesota Department of Human Services in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive and declaratory relief, and damages. They alleged that Minnesota Extended Treatment Options frequently subjected patients with developmental disabilities to the improper and inhumane use of seclusion and mechanical restraints in violation of their Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The plaintiffs also claimed state law violations under the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and under Minnesota statutes for negligence, false imprisonment, battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud. The plaintiffs' claim for declaratory relief alleged that the Minnesota state statutes referred to as "Rule 40" (Minn. Stat. § 245.825 and Minn. R. 9525.2700 - .2810), which govern the use of seclusion and mechanical restraints in licensed facilities serving persons with developmental disabilities, violate the Minnesota and United States Constitution.
Specifically, patients were restrained with metal handcuffs, leg irons, shackles and/or nylon straps after committing insignificant conduct violations such as spitting, laughing, hand-washing, or touching a pizza box. The Minnesota State Ombudsman for Mental Health and Development Disabilities reviewed the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in 2008 and released a report titled "Just Plain Wrong". The Ombudsman found that METO staff excessively used restraints and law enforcement-style devices and that 63% of METO residents at the time of the review had been restrained. One resident was restrained 299 times in 2006 and 230 times in 2007.
On March 8, 2010, the District Court (Judge Donovan W. Frank) ordered the Defendants to submit a draft settlement agreement to the Plaintiffs by April 2, 2010. On July 19, 2010, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. That same day the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a motion to certify the class.
On September 14, 2010, the parties reached a $3 million settlement agreement following two days of mediation. In the settlement, the parties agreed to work together to develop appropriate policies and procedures for implementation at METO and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Additionally, the parties agreed to form a committee comprised of stakeholders within the developmental disabilities community. The committee's responsibilities included reviewing the Minnesota Department of Health Services rule (Rule 40), which governs and protects people with developmental disabilities. The committee would also modernize Rule 40 to reflect current best practices, including the use of positive and social behavioral supports, the development of placement plans consistent with the principles of the "most integrated setting" and "person-centered planning", and development of an "Olmstead Plan" consistent with the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 582 (1999).
On Dec. 5, 2011, Judge Frank approved the class settlement agreement. 2011 WL 6178845. On July 17, 2012, the Court appointed an independent advisor and monitor to oversee implementation of the Settlement Agreement and to provide status reports to the Court. The terms indicated that the court would retain jurisdiction for two years after the Agreement was approved of, or as the court deemed just and equitable. It contained an option for the court to extend its jurisdiction upon a motion by plaintiffs if defendants were in substantial non-compliance with certain terms of the Agreement regarding restraints.
On Dec. 11, 2013, the Court accepted the monitor's suggestion to modify an aspect of the settlement agreement governing the emergency use of manual restraints and "Velcro soft cuffs and fabric ankle straps." The monitor suggested eliminating the soft cuffs and ankle-strap options and made other changes, including special staff training on the revised policy.
On April 30, 2014, in response to another monitor update, Judge Frank issued an order expressing disappointment in the fact that "more than two years after the approval of the settlement agreement, for some [state] employees, safety is equated with a show of force, power and control in a legacy of the old institutional way and not the direction [DHS is] headed." (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court strongly encouraged the state to redouble its efforts at compliance with the settlement agreement.
On Sept. 18, 2014, the Court declined to adopt the state's proposed Olmstead Plan and ordered that they submit a revised plan. The state then submitted another revised Olmstead Plan, for which Judge Frank gave his provisional approval on January 9, 2015. However, the court's order outlined a number deficiencies in the proposed Plan, particularly with respect to the state's plans for reaching its employment, housing, and healthcare goals. To address these deficiencies, Judge Frank ordered the state to include more specificity and concrete action steps in its plan.
After the State submitted a revised plan in March of 2015, on April 14, the Independent Monitor submitted a special report to the court detailing his concerns about potential misrepresentations and inaccurate or unverified reporting on behalf of the State with respect to its progress. For instance, an April 2014 report filed by the State indicated that "mobile support teams" were actively supporting class members in their homes. However, when the Monitor asked DHS about the activities of these teams, he was told the teams did not exist. The State disputed knowingly or intentionally filing inaccurate information. Judge Frank declined to impose sanctions or hold the state in contempt of court, but did reject the state's revised Olmstead Plan on May 6, 2015. 2015 WL 2100942. He again ordered the state to submit a revised plan, this time by July 10.
On May 27, 2015, DHS filed a motion for relief from judgment, asking the court to exempt the State from the provision of the Settlement Agreement that prohibited "transfers or placements of persons committed solely as a person with a developmental disability to the Minnesota Security Hospital." The State apparently did so in response to its decision to move a 16-year-old with developmental disabilities to the Minnesota Security Hospital. On June 24, Judge Frank denied the motion and ordered the defendants to create a discharge plan for the juvenile who had been moved to the hospital. (This individual was moved to a community placement, with approval of the court, in July of 2016.)
On August 10, 2015, the State submitted another revised Olmstead Plan. The State's letter to the court indicates that it focused not only on what actions state parties would take to implement the Plan, but also on creating concrete and measurable goals. Although plaintiffs still disapproved of certain aspects of the proposed Olmstead Plan, the court approved it on September 29, 2015. Judge Frank found that three key changes influenced his decision to approve of the Plan: (1) the addition of concrete
baseline data and specific timelines to establish measurable goals; (2) improvements to each goal that make the Olmstead Plan not only measurable, but strategically tailored to make a significant impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities across the state; and (3) added commitments to make the Olmstead Plan an evolving document that will continue to respond to the changing needs of individuals in the state over time. The plan included over 100 Evaluation Criteria (EC) through which the State could measure its progress. At this time, two areas - Assistive Technology and Preventing Abuse and Neglect - remained "under development." The court gave defendants another chance to develop these topic areas while it began to implement the overall Plan.
On November 20, 2015, Judge Frank awarded $50,000 in additional attorneys' fees to Class Counsel.
On February 22, 2016, the court issued two orders with respect to the State's reporting requirements. One required that DHS submit quarterly and annual reports regarding implementation of the newly-approved Olmstead Plan. That order also extended the court's jurisdiction through December of 2019. The second order required DHS to submit semi-annual and annual Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) reports regarding implementation of the Settlement Agreement. The orders temporarily stayed the reporting duties of the Court Monitor.
On May 31, 2016, DHS submitted a revised Olmstead Plan, which incorporated developed plans for the areas of Assistive Technology and Preventing Abuse and Neglect.
After DHS filed its next round of reports in August, the court ordered the Monitor to write an independent Compliance Report. The Compliance Report, dated November 29, 2016, indicated that defendants had improved in the thoroughness of their self-reporting. However, it noted several areas for improvement in reporting, including verification of outcomes related to quality-of-life, looking outside the scope of documents for sources of compliance information, and including information verifying how "best efforts" were made where that standard was required. Substantively, the Monitor noted that lack of community support services continued to hamper outcomes related to successful transitions into the community. It also noted areas of significant progress, including the cessation of the use of restraints in some facilities and the development of extensive community training.
The annual CPA for the year 2016 was filed under seal on March 31, 2017, so its contents are not accessible. However, a quarterly report filed on February 28 indicated that the State had met certain annual goals, including increasing the number of individuals in integrated employment settings, increasing the number of students receiving education in the most integrated setting, and increasing the number of accessible pedestrian signals. It also highlighted areas for improvement, including increasing the number of students entering post-secondary education and decreasing the number of students experiencing the use of emergency restrictive procedures.
In April of 2017, defendants objected - but did not formally make a motion - to the court's continuing jurisdiction, arguing that it could only extend its jurisdiction for one year beyond the original two-years that the court indicated it would retain jurisdiction after the Settlement Agreement was approved in 2011. Judge Frank denied defendants' objection on the basis that, while somewhat ambiguous, the Settlement Agreement's assertion that the court could retain jurisdiction as it "deem[ed] just and equitable" meant that continuing jurisdiction to ensure proper implementation of the Agreement was appropriate, especially in light of defendants' past non-compliance.
Defendants submitted an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit regarding this decision on July 26, 2017. On October 20, they filed a motion asking the district court to stay their obligations under the Settlement Agreement while their appeal was pending. The district court denied the motion to stay based on the pending appeal on February 1, 2018, saying that the defendants did not sufficiently persuade the court that they would win on the merits and that harm would be irreparable if it was not granted.
An Eighth Circuit panel of Circuit Judges Roger L. Wollman, Morris S. Arnold, and Jane L. Kelly confirmed the district court's suspicion and stated that the district court was correct to exercise jurisdiction over the continuing settlement agreement disputes on July 26, 2018. 897 F.3d 908. The panel wrote that while neither party's interpretation of the agreement made perfect sense, the fact that both sides continued to file motions past the settlement's expiration date as if the district court had jurisdiction was enough extrinsic evidence to determine that the court had jurisdiction over the matter.
Reports and monitoring continued into 2019; the court was set to lose jurisdiction over the settlement agreement at the end of the year. However, in response to a plaintiff's motion, the district court extended jurisdiction over the matter through September 15, 2020 on June 17, 2019. 2019 WL 2499595. Judge Frank wrote that enough questions existed surrounding the use of restraints in certain care homes and staff training at covered facilities that further jurisdiction for monitoring the implementation of the settlement agreement was warranted. The defendants filed a motion to amend the order to remove jurisdiction from the court, but the district court denied the motion on August 28, 2019, referring to reasons discussed in the earlier motion. 2019 WL 4059852.
Given the outstanding questions surrounding the use of restraints at covered facilities, the district court directed the parties to determine an external review of the Forensic Mental Health Program and Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center. The parties were unable to reach an agreement, and on February 13, 2020, Judge Frank issued an order setting an external reviewer of the facilities.
The defendants filed an appeal of this decision on February 20, 2020, arguing that the district court did not have the jurisdiction to name an external reviewer under the terms of the settlement agreement. They also filed a motion to stay the case pending the outcome of the appeal with the district court. The district court denied this motion on March 9, 2020, saying that success on the merits was unlikely and harm would not be irreparable. 2020 WL 1130671. The appellate court granted the plaintiff's motion to dismiss the appeal on April 7, 2020, and suggested that a full opinion was coming later; none has yet been filed.
The case is ongoing, though discovery and reporting has slowed given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Reiter (3/28/2011)
Andrew Junker (12/4/2014)
Lauren Latterell Powell (1/5/2018)
Ellen Aldin (6/8/2020)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/5008475/parties/jensen-v-minnesota-department-of-human-services/
Arnold, Morris Sheppard (Arkansas)
Azman, Mark R (Minnesota)
Alpert, Steven H (Minnesota)
Brennaman, Nathan A (Minnesota)
Devine, Marsha Eldot (Minnesota)
Arnold, Morris Sheppard (Arkansas)
Frank, Donovan W. (Minnesota)
Kelly, Jane Louise (Iowa)
Noel, Franklin L. (Minnesota)
Thorson, Becky R. (Minnesota)
Wollman, Roger Leland (South Dakota)
Last updated July 1, 2023, 3:18 a.m.
State / Territory: Minnesota
Filing Date: July 10, 2009
Case Ongoing: Yes
Patients of the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options program with developmental disabilities who were frequently subjected to abusive, inhumane, cruel and improper use of seclusion and mechanical restraints
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Amount Defendant Pays: 3,050,000
Order Duration: 2011 - 2020
Content of Injunction:
Type of Facility: