WA Legal Roundup: Division III
This is a very sad example of the State just screwing things up. Pamela Myers took care of her sister, LL, who was classified as a “vulnerable adult.” DSHS paid Myers for 112 hours per month (roughly 26 hours/week) for in-home care of LL. The opinion doesn’t say how much Myers got paid for caring for her sister. DSHS and Myers had a contract for these services.
LL twisted her ankle at Myers’ home. The resulting injury was quite minor. Myers iced the ankle and had LL elevate it. Evidence showed that other witnesses did not notice that LL was limping anymore than normal. Staff members at a facility where LL volunteered noticed that LL’s ankle was swollen and bruised and LL stated that the ankle was painful.
LL used the local paratransit van for transportation. LL told one of the other passengers on the van that Myers had dismissed the injured ankle and threatened to scold LL if she complained about the injury. LL also voiced her displeasure with her sister’s decision to move their residence. This passenger did not see LL’s ankle. This passenger reported the incident to DSHS. DSHS investigated.
The investigator talked to the case manager who stated that LL tended to exaggerate when she didn’t get her way and had issues with power and control. The investigator talked to LL and examined the ankle. The investigator talked to Myers and Myers then agreed to take LL to see a doctor. The doctor ultimately concluded that “the injury was not serious, required no aggressive treatment, and would heal on its own.”
The investigator then talked to LL’s mother and father and they reiterated that LL tended to act out when she didn’t get her way. They also stated that LL was particularly unhappy with Myers’ decision to move her residence.
Based on the investigator’s findings DSHS terminated their contract with Myers due to neglect of a vulnerable adult. Well there certainly was abuse here, but it appears that the abuse was by the State. Now here’s the shocking part. Myers appealed the decision and the AL judge reversed the finding of neglect. The DSHS Board of Appeals twice rejected DSHS's attempt to reinstate the finding of neglect!
So what is the case about? Myers sued DSHS for breach of contract. Her case was dismissed because the contract stated, "If it is later determined that the Contractor was not in default, the termination shall be considered a termination for convenience." Convenience! What a great contract clause. I’m going to have to include that one in my next contract.
Division III recognized the fact that Myers made a persuasive case in that she did nothing wrong. Myers was cleared by the AL judge. But the contract allowed for “termination for convenience.” Convenient to who? He who made the contract that’s who!
So Myers gets screwed even though she was successful at proving there was no neglect.
Where does this leave LL and Myers? Myers will receive no more funding for taking care of her sister. She will probably be forced to seek employment doing something else, which means that someone else will have to take care of LL. Everyone happy? Hey DSHS got their way. Even though DSHS lost, they still won. Sounds like a deal with the devil!
“No neglect? Well, we’re going to have to punish you anyway…for convenience!”