Case: U.S. v. Mercer County, New Jersey

3:05-cv-01122 | U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Filed Date: Feb. 18, 2005

Closed Date: Aug. 26, 2010

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the Mercer County Geriatric Center ("MCGC"), a public nursing home facility in New Jersey, evidently operated by Mercer County. The investigation resulted in an October 9, 2002, findings letter being sent to the County Executive. The letter stated that in December 2001, DOJ advised county offi…

Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the Mercer County Geriatric Center ("MCGC"), a public nursing home facility in New Jersey, evidently operated by Mercer County. The investigation resulted in an October 9, 2002, findings letter being sent to the County Executive. The letter stated that in December 2001, DOJ advised county officials of its intent to conduct an investigation of the facility pursuant to CRIPA authority, but the county and its counsel wholly declined to cooperate in the investigation. The investigation occurred nonetheless, even though the county's attorney interfered with the investigators' access to the MCGC's residents. The letter stated that non-cooperation is one factor considered adversely when drawing conclusions about a facility, but the DOJ explained it also relied upon federal and state survey information, news articles, medical records, family interviews, private attorney and advocate interviews, and publicly available data.

The letter advised that the DOJ's investigation led it to find that certain conditions at MCGC violated residents' federal rights, in that (1) Mercer County did not maintain sanitary and safe living conditions at MCGC; (2) MCGC residents did not receive adequate medical and mental health care; (3) MCGC residents were denied rehabilitation, restorative care, and freedom from unreasonable restraints; (4) MCGC mealtime assistance, nutrition, and hydration practices were not adequate; (5) MCGC residents were not treated in the most integrated setting appropriate to individual resident needs; and (6) staffing, administration, and policy deficiencies contributed to inadequate care at MCGC. Among the policy deficiencies listed was the county's denial of MCGC residents' First Amendment right to communicate with federal officials who were conducting the CRIPA investigation.

The DOJ findings letter proposed remedial actions to remedy the deficiencies, invited the county to address the issues, and alerted the county to the possibility of a CRIPA lawsuit brought by the United States to compel remedial action.

Negotiations evidently followed, because the county and the DOJ eventually entered into a settlement agreement obligating the county to improve a wide range of policies and practices at MCGC. The settlement contained substantive provisions addressing (A) assessment and care planning, (B) restraints and medication usage, (C) mealtime assistance, resident nutrition, and hydration practices, (D) therapeutic activities, rehabilitation, and restorative care, (E) mental health care, (F) treatment in the most integrated setting appropriate to individualized needs, and (G) management, oversight, and training. The settlement allowed for DOJ and its' consultants to retain access privileges to MCGC, its residents, and documents and records, for monitoring and technical assistance purposes, as well as to have access privileges to alternative placement settings. Further, the agreement called for the county to fund a jointly agreed-upon monitor. The county had 180 days to implement the changes called for in the settlement document which, by its terms, expired in three years. Attorneys for the county signed the agreement on December 28, 2004, followed by relevant DOJ officials' signatures being added on February 18, 2005, when the document and its attached monitoring protocol were received by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The same date, the United States filed its complaint against the county and its subdivision and officials responsible for the operation of the MCGC. The CRIPA-based complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, citing the deficiencies at MCGC and alleging that the defendants' conduct violated residents' federal constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights, including those provided by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the nursing home reform provisions of the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1987, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395i-3 and 1396r, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (and implementing regulations).

District Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr., signed the settlement as the order and judgment of the court October 14, 2005. The judge's unpublished order of November 29, 2005, appointed Marie Boltz as monitor in the case. Her subsequent reports were attached as part of the United States' status reports to the court on the case.

On Nov. 24, 2008, the parties jointly moved to conditionally dismiss the case with one year of oversight in response to the defendants' progress implementing the settlement agreement. The court granted the motion on Jan. 9, 2009. The defendants moved to dismiss the case on Aug. 6, 2010, which the court granted later that month.

The case is closed.

Summary Authors

Mike Fagan (6/23/2008)

Virginia Weeks (10/11/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Bongiovanni, Tonianne J. (New Jersey)

Brown, Garrett E. Jr. (New Jersey)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Acosta, R. Alexander (District of Columbia)

Boyd, Ralph F. Jr. (District of Columbia)

Brown Cutlar, Shanetta Y. (District of Columbia)

Cheng, Christopher N. (District of Columbia)

Christie, Christopher James (New Jersey)

Gonzales, Alberto (District of Columbia)

Schlozman, Bradley (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Crowley, Sarah G. (New Jersey)

Judge(s)

Bongiovanni, Tonianne J. (New Jersey)

Brown, Garrett E. Jr. (New Jersey)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Acosta, R. Alexander (District of Columbia)

Boyd, Ralph F. Jr. (District of Columbia)

Brown Cutlar, Shanetta Y. (District of Columbia)

Cheng, Christopher N. (District of Columbia)

Christie, Christopher James (New Jersey)

Gonzales, Alberto (District of Columbia)

Schlozman, Bradley (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Crowley, Sarah G. (New Jersey)

Hughes, Brian M. (New Jersey)

Sypek, Arthur R. (New Jersey)

Other Attorney(s)

Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

3:05-cv-01122

Docket (PACER)

United States of America v. Mercer County, New Jersey et al

Aug. 26, 2010

Aug. 26, 2010

Docket

Re: CRIPA Investigation of Mercer County Geriatric Center

DOJ CRIPA Investigation of Mercy County Geriatric Center

No Court

Oct. 9, 2002

Oct. 9, 2002

Findings Letter/Report
1

3:05-cv-01122

Complaint

Feb. 18, 2005

Feb. 18, 2005

Complaint
4

3:05-cv-01122

Stipulation of Settlement

Oct. 18, 2005

Oct. 18, 2005

Settlement Agreement
14

3:01-cv-01122

Proposed Order of Conditional Dismissal

United States of America v. Mercer County

Jan. 9, 2009

Jan. 9, 2009

Order/Opinion
18

3:05-cv-01122

Order

United States of America v. Mercer County

Aug. 26, 2010

Aug. 26, 2010

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated Aug. 27, 2022, 3:24 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against MERCER COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, BRIAN M. HUGHES, APRIL AARONSON, ROBERT F. ECROYD ( Filing fee $0 ), filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Attachments: (1) Exhibit Settlement)(tp ) (Entered: 03/01/2005)

Feb. 18, 2005

Feb. 18, 2005

2

STIPULATION of Settlement by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment − Joint Motion# 2 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Settlement Order# 3 Proposed Monitor's c.v.)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 08/04/2005)

Aug. 4, 2005

Aug. 4, 2005

3

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA re 2 Stipulation (Amended cert. of service) (CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 08/04/2005)

Aug. 4, 2005

Aug. 4, 2005

4

STIPULATION &ORDER OF SETTLEMENT. Signed by Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. on 10/14/05. (ij). (Entered: 10/19/2005)

Oct. 18, 2005

Oct. 18, 2005

5

Letter from Christopher Cheng (US Dept. of Justice − Civil Rights Division). (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order to Appoint Marie Boltz as Monitor)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 11/22/2005)

Nov. 22, 2005

Nov. 22, 2005

***Civil Case Terminated pursuant to 4 STIPULATION &ORDER OF SETTLEMENT. Signed by Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. on 10/14/05. (ms) (Entered: 11/29/2005)

Nov. 29, 2005

Nov. 29, 2005

6

ORDER appointing Marie Boltz as the monitor in this case. Signed by Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. on 11/28/05. (ck ) (Entered: 11/29/2005)

Nov. 29, 2005

Nov. 29, 2005

7

STATUS REPORT (Monitor's Report) by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Attachments: # 1)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 08/29/2006)

Aug. 29, 2006

Aug. 29, 2006

8

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA re 7 Status Report (Amended Certificate of Service) (CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 08/30/2006)

Aug. 30, 2006

Aug. 30, 2006

9

NOTICE by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Monitor's Second Report)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 12/21/2006)

Dec. 21, 2006

Dec. 21, 2006

10

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA re 9 Notice (Other) (Amended certificate) (CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 12/21/2006)

Dec. 21, 2006

Dec. 21, 2006

11

NOTICE by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Submission of Monitor's Third Status Report (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Monitor's Third Status Report)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 10/10/2007)

Oct. 10, 2007

Oct. 10, 2007

12

STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Monitor's March 21 2008 Report)(CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 05/16/2008)

May 16, 2008

May 16, 2008

13

MOTION to Dismiss Conditionally with One Year of Continued Oversight by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 11/21/2008)

Nov. 21, 2008

Nov. 21, 2008

13 MOTION to Dismiss Conditionally with One Year of Continued Oversight set for 12/15/08 will be decided on the papers before Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. No appearance required unless notified by the Court. (ij, ) (Entered: 11/24/2008)

Nov. 24, 2008

Nov. 24, 2008

15

MOTION to Dismiss by APRIL AARONSON, ROBERT F. ECROYD, BRIAN M. HUGHES, MERCER COUNTY, NEW JERSEY. Responses due by 8/24/2010 (Attachments: # 1 Brief, # 2 Certification of Sarah G. Crowley, # 3 Exhibit A pages 1−10, # 4 Exhibit A pages 11−23, # 5 Exhibit A pages 24−41, # 6 Exhibit B, # 7 Exhibit C, # 8 Text of Proposed Order, # 9 Certificate of Service)(CROWLEY, SARAH) (Entered: 08/06/2010)

Aug. 6, 2010

Aug. 6, 2010

CLERK'S QUALITY CONTROL MESSAGE − The Brief attached to the Motion to Dismiss 15 appears to be incomplete. Counsel is advised to review the attachment and if the document is incomplete to please RESUBMIT THE INCOMPLETE DOCUMENT ONLY. This message is for informational purposes only. (gxh) (Entered: 08/09/2010)

Aug. 9, 2010

Aug. 9, 2010

Set Deadlines as to 15 MOTION to Dismiss. Motion set for 9/7/2010 before Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr.. The motion will be decided on the papers. No appearances required unless notified by the court. (gxh) (Entered: 08/09/2010)

Aug. 9, 2010

Aug. 9, 2010

16

Letter from Sarah G. Crowley to Hon. Garrett E. Brown, U.S.D.J. re 15 MOTION to Dismiss. (CROWLEY, SARAH) (Entered: 08/09/2010)

Aug. 9, 2010

Aug. 9, 2010

17

RESPONSE to Motion re 15 MOTION to Dismiss filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (CHENG, CHRISTOPHER) (Entered: 08/25/2010)

Aug. 25, 2010

Aug. 25, 2010

18

ORDER granting 15 Motion to Dismiss; that Pltf's Complaint against Deft Mercer County is dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. on 8/26/2010. (gxh) (Entered: 08/26/2010)

Aug. 26, 2010

Aug. 26, 2010

Case Details

State / Territory: New Jersey

Case Type(s):

Nursing Home Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Multi-LexSum (in sample)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 18, 2005

Closing Date: Aug. 26, 2010

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Mercer County (Mercer), County

Mercer County Department of Human Services (Mercer), County

Mercer County Geriatric Center (Mercer), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

Nursing Care Reform Act of 1987/ Omnibus Reconciliation Act

Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2005 - 2008

Issues

General:

Food service / nutrition / hydration

Habilitation (training/treatment)

Individualized planning

Neglect by staff

Rehabilitation

Restraints : physical

Sanitation / living conditions

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Disability:

Integrated setting

Medical/Mental Health:

Bed care (including sores)

Medical care, general

Mental health care, general

Untreated pain

Type of Facility:

Government-run