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Case Name Helen L. v. DiDario PB-PA-0008
Docket / Court 2:92-cv-06054-TON ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Olmstead Cases
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Steve Gold
Case Summary
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) challenge to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's refusal to provide them with in-home attendant care services rather than nursing home care, in the fall of 1992, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District ... read more >
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) challenge to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's refusal to provide them with in-home attendant care services rather than nursing home care, in the fall of 1992, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. There were five plaintiffs in this case (Helen L., Beverly D., Ilene F., Florence H., and Idell S.) who were joined and dismissed at various times, depending on their institutionalization status. Each plaintiff had a physical disability and required assistance in carrying out daily activities. Doctors determined that it would be appropriate for each plaintiff to live at home with attendant care, but the state determined that such care would be too expensive and forced each plaintiff to remain in a state hospital in order to receive care.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking for home-based services on May 3, 1993. On June 25, the parties filed a stipulated statement of facts and cross motions for summary judgment, asking the court to resolve the legal issues based on the agreed-upon facts rather than proceeding to trial. Judge Thomas O'Neill of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued his decision on those motions on January 27, 1994, finding for the state defendants on the issue of whether community-based services were required. The plaintiffs had argued that the integration mandate of the ADA and its regulations (which require state government-provided services under Title II to be delivered in the most integrated setting possible) requires the provision of attendant care services in the community. Judge O'Neill disagreed, and held that states may choose how to structure their own benefits and may provide services in the setting they believe is appropriate. The ADA only prevents the denial of services on the basis of disability, not the structure or location of provision of those services. Here, the state had claimed that providing services in the community would cost more money. Judge O'Neill found this justification to be sufficient.

Plaintiff Helen L. also filed a motion for summary judgment on a constitutional claim, as she argued that the state had violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment Due Process Clause in holding her in an institution against her will. The district court held that there were issues of fact to resolve, and that parties should continue discovery.

The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on the issue of whether the ADA requires community-based services when appropriate. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in the case supporting the position of the plaintiffs. On January 31, 1995, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court and found that the plaintiffs had established a violation of the ADA. Judge Theodore McKee, writing for a three-judge panel, examined the text and history of the ADA and determined that Congress intended to prevent the warehousing of individuals with disabilities. The unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities violates the integration mandate of the ADA and its accompanying regulations. The Third Circuit declined to rehear this case on February 24, 1995. This decision was a landmark in disability rights law; it marked the first use of the integration mandate in a deinstitutionalization case. The Supreme Court declined to hear this case, 516 U.S. 813 (1995) (cert. denied), but the Court would later adopt similar reasoning in Olmstead v. L.C. ex. rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999).

On March 6, 1995, the case was remanded to the District Court with an instruction to enter a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants filed an answer shortly thereafter, but no additional litigation occurred; instead, on May 9, 1996, the plaintiffs seem to have filed a stipulation of dismissal of the lawsuit, which was accordingly dismissed on June 7, 1996. (Perhaps there was a settlement, but if so, its terms are not in the court filings.)

Beth Kurtz - 10/19/2012

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Benefit Source
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Hospital/Health Department
disability, unspecified
Integrated setting
Least restrictive environment
Mobility impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Classification / placement
Public assistance grants
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Albert DiDario
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were individuals with disabilities who reside in institutions so that they may receive medical care that might otherwise have been provided in a community-based setting.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Steve Gold
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 1992
Case Closing Year 1996
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Review of the Use of Monitors in Civil Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees Involving State and Local Government Entities
U.S. Department of Justice
Date: 9/13/2021
By: Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assoc. AG Vanita Gupta (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Pa.
PB-PA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Pa.
District Court Opinion [ECF# 36] (1994 WL 22714)
PB-PA-0008-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
Third Circuit Opinion (46 F.3d 325)
PB-PA-0008-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
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Judges Cowen, Robert E. (D.N.J., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
Mansmann, Carol Los (W.D. Pa., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
McKee, Theodore Alexander (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
O'Neill, Thomas Newman Jr. (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gilhool, Thomas K. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Gold, Stephen F. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Kahne, David Alfred (Texas) show/hide docs
Shane, Ilene W. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Forney, Susan J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Ulan, Howard (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs

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