Patient dumping case goes forward

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Nevada state government growing out of the state's former policy of dumping mental patients on other states.

In a June 30 decision, the Court declined to take up an appeal of a California Superior Court ruling that Nevada can be sued in California. Nevada had claimed sovereign immunity. The case is Nevada et. al. v. Superior Court of California, et. al.

The case grows out of Nevada's practice of dumping mental patients out of state to free up space in a Nevada facility, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. The practice was disclosed in an award-winning Sacramento Bee series by reporters Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese. Their reports were sparked by schizophrenia patient James F. C. Brown, a homeless man who was given a one-way ticket and put on a bus bound for Sacramento. The reporters subsequently learned that 1,500 patients had been dumped in states across the nation.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a class action against Nevada on behalf of California local governments who paid the costs of patients dumped in their jurisdictions. Twenty of the patients dumped in San Francisco required medical attention, and that city is seeking about $500,000 for medical care, housing and other costs.

Nevada still hopes to get the case dismissed. It is planning a second trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time to invoke California Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt, a case in which California sought a Supreme Court ruling that a state government should be immune from lawsuits by private individuals, in this case inventor Gilbert Hyatt.

Hyatt, a California resident, moved to Nevada and informed California of the move, subsequently paying only part of his California licensing fees for the year of the move. California opened an audit, prompting Hyatt to sue. The California Franchise Tax Board sought immunity against the suit and the Nevada Supreme Court ruled for Hyatt. The U.S. Supreme Court found in California's favor on the two points of the case it accepted for appeal.