FEDERAL COURT ALLOWS MISSOURI FOSTER CARE SUIT TO PROCEED
Plaintiffs’ Counsel ‘Gratified the Court Has Ruled in Favor of Youth,’ Notes Children ‘Continue to be Prescribed Powerful and Potentially Dangerous Drugs … Without Proper Oversight’
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(Kansas City, MO) – For the first time, a federal court has ruled that the failure to oversee the administration of powerful psychotropic medications to children in foster care could violate their rights under the Constitution. Finding “that that the lack of a reasonable system of oversight and monitoring of the administration of psychotropic medications to children in its custody poses a substantial and ongoing risk of harm to the children,” the federal judge last night allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the State of Missouri.
The first federal class action lawsuit to shine a spotlight exclusively on the widespread, and potentially dangerous, use of psychotropic medications among children in state care, M.B. v. Corsi alleges that the Missouri Children’s Division (CD) is engaging in longstanding and deliberately indifferent practices that fail to ensure these drugs are administered safely and only when necessary. National non-profit organizations Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics and pro-bono counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP filed the case in June 2017 on behalf of a putative class: all minor children and youth who are or will be in Missouri foster care.
In denying the majority of Defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, United States District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey wrote: “There are clearly plausible allegations that Defendants … actually knew of the serious risk of harm. Yet they have not adopted any systematic administrative review because Defendants can’t find the medical records of the children. But the absence of the medical records itself creates an unreasonable risk of harm and the Defendants are aware of that risk as well.”
M.B. v. Corsi alleges a number of harmful practices, including:
• Failure to maintain complete and current medical records for children in foster care and to provide those records to foster parents and health providers to ensure effective and well-informed treatment;
• Failure to maintain a secondary review system to identify and address high risk and outlier prescriptions to children when they occur;
• Failure to maintain adequate procedural safeguards to assure the legal rights of children in relation to the administration of psychotropic medications.
“We are gratified that the Court has ruled in favor of youth in Missouri foster care,” said Plaintiffs’ attorneys. “These children continue to be prescribed powerful and potentially dangerous drugs, often with unacceptable dosages and at alarming rates, without the proper oversight and coordination. Even worse, these medications are prescribed as a panacea for difficult behavior, rather than out of medical need. We are continuing to build our case and are prepared to protect these vulnerable youth at trial.”
Trial is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2019.
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About Children’s Rights: Fighting to transform America’s failing child welfare, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems is one of the most important social justice movements of our time. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children. A national watchdog organization since 1995, Children’s Rights fights to protect and defend the rights of young people, because we believe that children have the right to the best possible futures. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.
About National Center for Youth Law: The National Center for Youth Law is a non-profit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential by transforming the public agencies that serve them. For more information, please visit www.youthlaw.org.
About Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics: For more than 40 years the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics have created a tradition of social justice by providing invaluable legal services to the greater St. Louis community. Dedicated to the University’s Jesuit mission of advocating for the disadvantaged and the betterment of the community at large, the Legal Clinics provide unique and challenging opportunities in a supportive experiential learning environment for every student who desires a clinical experience. For more information, please visit law.slu.edu/clinics.
About Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP: Founded in 1873, Morgan Lewis offers more than 2,200 lawyers, patent agents, benefits advisers, regulatory scientists, and other specialists in 30 offices* across North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The firm provides comprehensive litigation, corporate, transactional, regulatory, intellectual property, and labor and employment legal services to clients of all sizes—from globally established industry leaders to just-conceived startups. For more information about Morgan Lewis or its practices, please visit www.morganlewis.com
*Our Beijing and Shanghai offices operate as representative offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. In Hong Kong, Morgan Lewis operates through Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which is a separate Hong Kong general partnership registered with The Law Society of Hong Kong as a registered foreign law firm operating in Association with Luk & Partners.