Currie v. Group Ins. Com'n

Decision Date14 June 2001
Docket NumberNo. CIV A 00-10142-EFH.,CIV A 00-10142-EFH.
PartiesValjeanne CURRIE, et al., Plaintiffs v. GROUP INSURANCE COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

S. Stephen Rosenfeld, Suzanne L. Schwartz, Rosenfeld & Associates, Boston, MA, Richard Ames, Brookline, MA, for Valjeanne Currie, Mary Johnston, Plaintiffs.

Pierce O. Cray, Sinkel, Attorney General's Office, Boston, MA, Ginny Sinkel, Office of the Attorney General, Boston, MA, for Group Insurance Commission, defendant.

Pierce O. Cray, Sinkel, Attorney General's Office, Boston, MA, for Dolores L. Mitchell, Deborah W. Heslop, Robert W. Hungate, Andrew S. Natsios, Charles D. Baker, Sr., Alfred A. Fondacaro, Mark P. Mulcahy, Linda Ruthardt, Christine M. Truax, John P. Walsh, Janice B. Wyatt, Richard J. Zeckhauser, Defendants.


HARRINGTON, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Valjeanne Currie has brought this suit as a class action against the Group Insurance Commission ("GIC") alleging that the GIC's Long Term Disability ("LTD") policy violates her constitutional and statutory rights.1 At issue in this matter is whether conditioning the receipt of LTD benefits beyond one year only to those mentally disabled individuals confined to an institution violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Specifically, plaintiff claims that, in addition to the interference with her constitutional rights, Title II of the ADA is violated by a condition of this nature. Defendants dispute such constitutional violations and allege that a claim in the form of employment discrimination is the exclusive province of Title I of the ADA.

To this end, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After reviewing the record and hearing oral argument this Court makes the following factual findings and conclusions of law.

I. Factual Findings

The material facts of this matter are largely undisputed by the parties. Beginning in 1985, Plaintiff Valjeanne Currie, a Massachusetts resident, worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center ("Mass Mental"). Between the years 1994 and 1999, she continued her work in the Medical Records Program of Mass Mental.

Plaintiff suffers from schizophrenia, a long-term mental disability.2 In June of 1999, this mental illness caused plaintiff to become totally disabled. As a result, she was forced to leave her work at Mass Mental on a long-term basis. The manifestation of her illness in June, 1999 caused plaintiff to be hospitalized for several days and thereafter referred to Faulkner Hospital's intensive psychiatric day treatment program. Plaintiff was again hospitalized as a result of her illness from December 31, 1999 to January 4, 2000. Since that time, plaintiff has received intensive psychiatric care on an out-patient basis. This treatment is oriented toward helping plaintiff participate as an active member of society and to return to work one day.

Throughout her fourteen years of employment with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, plaintiff participated in the GIC LTD plan.3 This participation came in the form of paying monthly premiums to participate in the plan. The GIC was established pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws ch. 32A, § 3, as a state agency within the Commonwealth's Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Massachusetts General Laws ch. 32A, § 10D requires the GIC to establish an LTD plan for state employees. Currently, LTD benefits are offered to employees of the Commonwealth under a four-year contract of insurance between the GIC and the Hartford effective July 1, 1998.4 The GIC selects the scope and coverage of the program, while the Hartford, as plan administrator, determines an individual employee's eligibility for disability benefits.

During the 1997 procurement process for the 1998 LTD contract, consultants from the employee benefits consulting firm of O'Neill, Finnegan & Jordan ("OFJ") recommended that the GIC provide only one year of outpatient benefits for individuals disabled due to mental illness, as opposed to an unlimited mental health benefit. This conclusion was reached because, in the consultant's opinion, only employer-paid plans, which by their nature have one-hundred percent participation rates, can afford such an inclusive benefit. The legislature of the Commonwealth, pursuant to Mass.Gen.L. ch. 32A, § 10D, has stated that the Commonwealth shall not make any contributions to the premiums of the disability plan.

The current LTD plan, a product of this round of consultations and made effective July 1, 1998, provides benefits for one year to individuals disabled due to mental illness.5 After one year has expired, benefits cease, unless the individual is confined to a hospital or institution. In such a case, the benefits continue for the duration of the institutionalization. Under the plan, employees disabled for reasons other than mental disability are granted benefits until they are able to return to work or reach the age of 65. This is done irrespective of whether they are hospitalized.

In October, 1999, plaintiff received a letter dated October 21, 1999 from the Hartford informing her that her LTD claim was approved. This letter also informed her that unless she was hospitalized by June 6, 2000 (one year after the commencement of her benefits), her LTD benefits would cease. Plaintiff received benefits for one year under the GIC LTD plan. Two days before the benefits were scheduled to end, the state Superior Court ordered that they be continued. A preliminary injunction was entered for six months, and subsequently renewed in December, 2000. The preliminary injunction remains in force pending resolution of the matter before this Court.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

In this matter, the parties have crossmoved for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment shall be granted only upon a showing "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Hinchey v. NYNEX Corp., 144 F.3d 134, 140 (1st Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the facts must be viewed "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Borschow Hospital & Medical Supplies, Inc. v. Cesar Castillo Inc., 96 F.3d 10, 14 (1st Cir.1996). Accordingly, in reviewing plaintiffs' motion, the facts are read in the light most favorable to defendants. Conversely, when analyzing defendants' motion the facts are evaluated in the light most favorable to plaintiffs.

III. Plaintiffs' ADA Claim
A. The Language and Structure of the ADA

Plaintiffs claim that the GIC's management of LTD benefits for non-institutionalized mentally disabled patients creates a cognizable claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.6 See generally 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131—12134. This alleged violation is said to originate from the fact that the LTD plan's limitation on benefits provided to a certain category of mentally disabled patients, namely outpatients, necessarily increases the isolation and segregation of the mentally disabled population. See Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 597, 601-02, 119 S.Ct. 2176, 2185, 144 L.Ed.2d 540 (1999). It is argued that by creating such a classification without any rational foundation, the mandate of the ADA, that public services are to be delivered to the community in a manner that promotes integration, is violated. See S.Rep. No. 116, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. 20 (1989); H.R.Rep. No. 485(II), 101st Cong.2d Sess. At 50 (1990), reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 332. This Court rules that such a claim is not cognizable under Title II of the ADA.

There exists a great divergence of opinion amongst the various appellate courts as to whether claims, such as the one brought by plaintiffs, are within the ambit of Title II of the ADA. Compare Zimmerman v. Oregon Department of Justice, 170 F.3d 1169, 1173-74 (9th Cir.1999) (Title II of the ADA does not incorporate the Rehabilitation Act's prohibition on employment discrimination); Bledsoe v. Palm Beach County Soil and Water District, 133 F.3d 816, 820-22 (11th Cir.1998) (Title II encompasses public employment discrimination). The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has not yet had an occasion to rule on the issue. Indeed, sessions of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts have come to somewhat divergent conclusions on the subject. Compare Downs v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, 13 F.Supp.2d 130, 134-36 (D.Mass.1998) (Title II applies to employment discrimination claims against public entities); Motzkin v. Trustees of Boston University, 938 F.Supp. 983, 996 (D.Mass.1996) ("the legislative intent is so clear from the language of Titles I and III that one need not go beyond that language to conclude that employment discrimination is the exclusive province of Title I"). In evaluating plaintiffs' claim, this Court turns to the statutory language and structure of the ADA as the best source of guidance as to what the intent of Congress was in formulating such provisions.

At the outset, this Court notes that the express language of Title I makes abundantly clear that employment related concerns under the ADA are the exclusive province of Title I. See Motzkin, 938 F.Supp. at 996. The operative language of Title I states, "no covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112.

Notwithstanding the explicit language of Title I, plaintiffs contend that the plain language and structure...

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6 cases
  • Currie v. Group Ins. Comm.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • April 1, 2002
    ...Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which provides disability benefits for employees of the state of Massachusetts. Currie v. Group Ins. Comm'n, 147 F. Supp.2d 30 (D.Mass. 2001). Currie challenges an aspect of the GIC long-term disability benefits policy, which limits benefits for noninstitut......
  • Currie v. Group Ins. Com'n
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • April 1, 2002
    ...Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which provides disability benefits for employees of the state of Massachusetts. Currie v. Group Ins. Comm'n, 147 F.Supp.2d 30 (D.Mass.2001). Currie challenges an aspect of the GIC long-term disability benefits policy, which limits benefits for noninstitutio......
  • Skinner v. Salem Sch. Dist..
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • July 7, 2010 employment discrimination claims as a matter of plain meaning. See Currie, 290 F.3d at 1 (reviewing Currie v. Group Ins. Comm'n, 147 F.Supp.2d 30 (D.Mass.2001)). While ultimately staying the case on abstention grounds, the First Circuit addressed the Title II issue briefly in dicta, ques......
  • Sánchez–Arroyo v. Dep't of Educ. of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • February 1, 2012 not a “service, program, or activity” of a public entity within the meaning of Title II of the ADA. See also Currie v. Group Ins. Com'n, 147 F.Supp.2d 30, 34 (D.Mass.2001); Motzkin v. Trustees of Boston University, 938 F.Supp. 983 (D.Mass.1996); Patterson v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections......
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