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Estate of Lovelett v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 11, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on the joint motion for summary judgment of Defendants Abbott Adult Family Homes, LLC (“AAFH”); Kristy Danforth (“Danforth”), RN; Nancy Dufraine (“Dufraine”); Florence Fadele, ARNP (“Fadele”); Heather Hoyle (“Hoyle”); Kelsie Moen, RN (“Moen”); Bhakta Rizal; Renna Rizal; Sandra Sanders (“Sanders”); Trisha Shipp, LPN (“Shipp”); State of Washington (“State”); and the Confederated Tribes of The Chehalis Reservation's (“Tribe”) (collectively “Defendants”) (Dkt. 93). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion in part for the reasons stated herein.


         On November 1, 2016, the Estate of Jolene Lovelett (“the Estate”) filed a complaint against Defendants and the United States of America asserting claims for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; violations of Washington's Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act, RCW Chapter 74.34; and the “common law torts under Washington law, including assault, battery, negligence, neglect, abandonment, outrage and infliction of emotional distress.” Dkt. 1.

         On May 1, 2017, the Court granted the United States' motion to dismiss. Dkt. 54.

         On March 15, 2018, Defendants filed a joint motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 93. On April 2, 2018, the Estate responded. Dkt. 114. On April 6, 2018, Defendants replied and moved to strike certain evidence the Estate submitted in support of its position. Dkt. 122. On April 11, 2018, the Estate filed a surreply requesting that the Court strike evidence submitted by Defendants. Dkt. 143.[1]

         On March 22, 2018, the Estate filed a motion for partial summary judgment. Dkt. 106. On April 9, 2018, all defendants responded. Dkts. 128, 133, 134, 135, 139. On April 13, 2018, the Estate replied. Dkt. 144.

         On May 14, 2018, the Court granted the parties' motion to dismiss the Tribe. Dkt. 152.


         The facts relevant to Defendants' motion are mostly undisputed. Lovelett was born with severe physical and developmental disabilities and essentially dependent upon caregivers for all aspects of her life. Lovelett was a member of the Tribe, and on February 28, 2006, the Chehalis Tribal Court appointed Arnold Cooper (“Cooper”) as a limited guardian of Lovelett “to make informed decisions regarding all medical, residential and other daily living decisions necessary.” Dkt. 99 at 5.

         At the beginning of 2013, Lovelett qualified for Medicaid assistance administered through the Washington Department of Social Health Services (“DSHS”). Dkt. 98, ¶ 6. At that time, Jessica Ward was Lovelett's DSHS case manager. Id. Although the timing is unclear, it appears that Lovelett was hospitalized or in a hospital in early March 2013. Around that time Sanders, a case resource manager with the Developmental Disabilities Administration division of DSHS, replaced Ms. Ward. Id. It also seems that Chehalis Tribal Adult Services case manager Hoyle was involved in some capacity with Lovelett's care. Sometime before March 20, 2013, the Tribe requested a review hearing of Lovelett's case pursuant to its vulnerable adult code. Dkt. 99 at 12. On March 20, 2013, the tribal court entered an order appointing Chehalis Tribal Adult Services to act in Lovelett's best interest, make all necessary decisions regarding Lovelett's “health, safety, and welfare, ” and assist her in “obtaining all necessary services for her well-being.” Id. at 13. Pursuant to the order, Hoyle, an adult services social worker employed by the Tribe, became Lovelett's guardian, in addition to Cooper.

         In early April 2013, Lovelett was transferred to AAFH, which was owned by Bhakta Rizal. Dkt. 95, ¶ 2. On April 3, 2013, Hoyle signed AAFH's admission agreement for Medicaid-eligible residents. Dkt. 94 at 9-31. AAFH, through its employees Mr. Rizal and his wife Renna (the “Rizals”), provided Lovelett with “room, board, laundry and necessary supervision and assistance with daily living activities.” Dkt. 95, ¶ 2. Nurse Delegator Danforth also monitored and cared for Lovelett. Id. ¶ 3. Danforth declares that she was an independent contractor for, and not an employee of, the State when she provided services to Lovelett. Dkt. 100, ¶ 6.

         Also in early April, Sanders discovered that Lovelett no longer qualified for Medicaid. Dkt. 98, ¶ 7. As a member of the Tribe, Lovelett received a monthly disbursement, which resulted in her financial assets exceeding the $2, 000 Medicaid qualification limit. Id. DSHS concluded that Medicaid funding would stop in late June 2013. Id. ¶ 8. Sanders, however, kept Lovelett's file open in case Lovelett spent down her assets below the $2, 000 limit. Id.

         When the State ended Medicaid payments, Hoyle managed the contracts and payments on behalf of Chehalis Tribal Adult Services for Lovelett's care. She hired Danforth as an independent contractor to oversee care. Dkt. 100, ¶ 7. Hoyle also contracted with nurse practitioner Fadele and assigned tribal employees nurse Shipp and nurse ...

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