On October 22, 2020, the family of JoHanna Pratt, Disability Rights Washington, and Carney Gillespie PLLP filed a suit in Pierce County Superior Court against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for neglect, claiming that DSHS wrongfully caused the death of JoHanna Pratt and violated state law against abuse of vulnerable adults. At the time of her death in 2017, Ms. Pratt lived in Rainier School, a state owned and operated institution for adults with developmental disabilities. Ms. Pratt’s death was preventable. She died because medical staff at Rainier did not take seriously her treatable but life-threatening symptoms of a pulmonary embolism following foot surgery.
JoHanna Pratt’s goals were consistent with those of many people– she wanted to live a dignified, independent life near her family. Tragically, due to neglect at the state-operated facility she relied on for care, she never realized that wish. Rainier School in Buckley, Wash., is one of four state-run institutions known as Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs). The four RHCs house over 600 residents with developmental disabilities. The RHCs are tasked with supporting all the individuals in their care to gain the skills necessary to live as independently as possible in the community through a comprehensive education program.
Disability Rights Washington has released multiple reports documenting dangerous conditions, negligent care, and ineffective treatment at Rainier School. In 2019, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services terminated federal funding for part of Rainier School, citing the institution’s failure to meet basic safety and health requirements. A year before she died, Ms. Pratt and two other Rainier School residents sued the state to vindicate their right under federal law to live independent lives in the community. In July of 2018, the state settled with the remaining plaintiffs in C.F. v. Strange, et al, agreeing to concerted efforts to ensure their release from Rainier School to community living, as Ms. Pratt wanted to do.