DSHS case in Washington Supreme Court may cost $100 million

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Updated Thursday, May 2 at 8:19 PM

The state Supreme Court will hear a case on May 14 that could end up costing Washington taxpayers more than a $100 million.

The low-profile, high-dollar case dates back to 2003, when the Department of Health and Human Services decided to pay some live-in caregivers less than what they were contracted to earn.

It was a 15 percent pay cut and it stayed in place for about four years before it was challenged in court and thrown out. A Thurston County jury awarded plaintiffs $57 million in a subsequent class-action lawsuit.

The state appealed and the case went directly to the Supreme Court. But the clock has been ticking and there are interest payments owed that date back nearly ten years. That $57 million has almost doubled.

“The interest on the judgement is about a million dollars a month,” said lead attorney John White. “The total is now probably over $105 million.”

Maureen Pfaff is one of 22,000 caregivers across the state affected by the case. She and her husband tended to their daughter’s need in their home as she suffered from a rare brain disorder. Natasha Pfaff finally died at age 19.

The family had a contract with the State to provide a certain amount of care, for a specific amount of money, for a specific number of hours per week. They say they had to find out on their own and were never told directly that those payments were being cut 15 percent.

“Taxpayers are paying this. And I'm a taxpayer!” said Maureen. “I'm mad! why don’t they just pay?”

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