Time to Pay the Piper

Filed in National by on May 3, 2012

Scene: you have a disabled family member whose care you’ve given to the DC government. The DC government places your loved one in a group home and forgets about him. The group home operator ignores serious medical issues and your loved one dies. You sue the DC government and the group home operator and win. So what does the DC government do? They place a lien on the estate of your loved one to collect for the care they didn’t provide.

In today’s Post, I wrote about a recent jury verdict awarding $2.9 million to the family of a mentally disabled man who died in the District’s care from a spinal condition that could have be easily treated.

A federal judge found that the city’s oversight of Curtis Suggs’s case was negligent, failing to ensure that he received the medical care he needed.

The District is fighting the verdict, and there is a troubling postscript. Despite the finding of negligence in its oversight, the District seeking to recover some of the cost of the care it provided Suggs by filing a nearly $600,000 lien against his estate.

The city did so after the Suggs family settled a suit against the operator of the group home where Suggs lived for $900,000, according to Harvey S. Williams, the family’s lawyer.

In other words, the District is seeking payment for care that a judge has said it showed “deliberate indifference” in monitoring.

I lived in DC and know firsthand how disfunctional the city’s government is. In the days when Marion Barry was mayor, he awarded friends contracts worth millions of dollars to run fleabag homeless shelters, charging DC taxpayers more than what a suite at the Hay-Adams would cost per day. Streets went unpaved, the mentally ill were warehoused and forgotten, children in the foster care system were ignored. And in the 14 years since Barry was finally thrown out as mayor, it seems that nothing has changed except the face that occupies the mayor’s office.

Any government that is charged with caring for those who cannot care for themselves and loses a lawsuit based on that lack of care should not be suing the family to recoup its loss. It’s just common sense, something that the DC government has never had.

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A rabble-rousing bureaucrat living in Sussex County

Comments (2)

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  1. Joanne Christian says:

    Believe me MJ–I know your dealings w/DC government and agencies is frightful–no doubt. But, I guess in reading what little I can of this article does have me asking some questions. Where was the family while all this neglect was going on? Did they neglect to look in after him?

    I’m just seeing a math computation here, that if a family was awarded 2.9 million–and 600k was in arrears for his care–that’s alot of care–and where was the family during this time to see if he was being cared for?

    Usually, indigent care is reciprocated by already established laws that any assets of an estate are assigned back to the state. Don’t get me wrong–I agree that perhaps this care was abominable–but should a family who perhaps did nothing to oversee care and maybe even “parked” their relative on the state’s dime be allowed to collect, and then cry foul when asking for reimbursement of whatever–and I hear you–abysmal–services be reimbursed? Just asking? I think they all sound like sleazes.

  2. MJ says:

    Joanne – I hear you. Maybe the family couldn’t afford to care for him, I honestly don’t know. But it is sleazy for the DC government to go after them now for care they didn’t provide in the first place.