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Area woman's lawsuit certified as class action suit

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Edna Chadwell
American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) attorney Gavin Rose recently told The Brazil Times a lawsuit involving a Clay County woman was certified as a class action suit.

Rose said Clay County Superior Court Judge J. Blaine Akers "signed off" on a lawsuit filed on the behalf of Clay County resident Edna Chadwell.

The case stems from the lawsuit the ACLU filed on Chadwell's behalf against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) last year. The suit specifically targeted the agencies' Aged and Disabled Waiver Program.

Rose told The Brazil Times the state agreed to have the suit certified as a class action.

Rose said the state appealed a ruling by Akers to dissolve a preliminary injunction in the case.

"The parties and (Akers) agreed that it made most sense for the judge to stay the proceedings in the trial court pending the appeal," Rose said. "This means that nothing will go forward at the trial court level until the appeal is resolved."

The Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, according to Rose, permits Medicaid recipients who "otherwise required institutionalization for their conditions -- whether that be in a nursing home, a hospital or another facility -- to receive services in their homes or a community-based setting."

According to Rose, the waiver program has to be renewed by the FSSA every five years and the renewal then goes through an approval process by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

However, Rose said when the program was renewed this year, the FSSA included a limitation on the number of "attendant care" hours that enrollees may receive.

Via e-mail recently to The Brazil Times, Rose said those hours are still protected and will be through the appeal process.

"Everyone's hours will be protected by the preliminary injunction," Rose said.

Seven others are named in the suit with Chadwell as well as "unnamed members," according to Rose.

But he said the appellate process could take some time, adding the state's brief is now due in less than two weeks. From there, Rose said he will have 30 days to file a response and then the state has 15 days to file one last "reply brief."

"That means that the appeal will not be fully briefed until early June," Rose estimated. "While the Court of Appeals tries to average about four months for a decision following the conclusion of briefing, there is nothing compelling it to act in a timely manner and there are certainly cases that have pended for a year or two before a decision.

"I do not think that this will be one of those cases, but you never know."

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