Press Release

Kirkland & Ellis LLP Plays Key Role in Ensuring that Rehabilitation Center for the Poor Remains Open

LOS ANGELES - The Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center will remain open following a ruling issued by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 5.  This federal appellate court opinion affirmed a U.S. District Court judge’s order barring the closure of a facility that serves a critical need within the community.

Rancho Los Amigos, which serves more than 9,500 patients with the most severe disabilities, had been targeted last year for closure by Los Angeles County officials for budgetary reasons.  The Center is Los Angeles’ only rehabilitation facility for the poor, and one of the top rehabilitation centers in the country.  The 207-bed hospital treats patients with spinal cord injuries and other severe disabilities from across the county.

Judge Harry Pregerson stated in his published opinion, “Rancho is a unique facility; no other facility in the area currently provides many of the services it offers.  Because many disabled patients will be unable to find necessary medical treatment elsewhere if Rancho closes, doctors anticipate that closing Rancho will have a devastating effect on the facility’s disabled patients, including plaintiffs.”

“Plaintiffs presented ample evidence that rehabilitative services and treatment for complex and disabling medical conditions, such as paralysis and conditions associated with severe diabetes, cannot currently be provided effectively anywhere in the county system but Rancho.”

Kirkland & Ellis attorneys, Jeffrey S. Davidson, Tony L. Richardson, Joseph M. Graham, Jr., Christopher J. Heck, Stephen H. McClain, Eve E. Crowell, along with others in the Firm’s Los Angeles office, joined forces with a coalition of public interest advocacy groups, including the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the National Senior Citizens’ Law Center, and Protection & Advocacy, Inc., to file suit last year to prevent Rancho’s closure.

Kirkland and the public interest groups filed a motion for injunctive relief seeking to halt the county’s efforts and sought to represent a plaintiff class of patients that included all present and future Medi-Cal recipients who live in Los Angeles County who have or will have disabilities, and need or will need the services of Rancho Los Amigos.

The lawyers argued that closing Rancho would violate the MediCaid Act, a federal/state program under which states provide medical assistance to their low income residents with financial participation from the federal government.  In addition, the attorneys asserted that Rancho's closure would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other statutes, because the closure would deny hundreds of patients with disabilities access to necessary medical services.

In May 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Florence Marie Cooper granted plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and certified the proposed class of plaintiffs.  The order precluded the officials from closing Rancho Los Amigos until they could assure that the class members would continue to receive comparable in-patient and out-patient services from other Medi-Cal providers in Los Angeles County.  The County appealed the District Court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. As discussed above, a panel of Ninth Circuit judges unanimously affirmed the preliminary injunction.

Kirkland’s Davidson argued the appeal on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is a 1,000-attorney law firm representing global clients in complex corporate and tax, workout, insolvency and bankruptcy, litigation, dispute resolution and arbitration, and intellectual property and technology matters.  The Firm has offices in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington.