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Welsch v. Likins Class Action Lawsuit 45th Anniversary

August 30, 2017 marks the 45th Anniversary of the Welsch v. Likins class action lawsuit brought on behalf of six individuals with developmental disabilities, residents of six different Minnesota State Hospitals.

The Welsch Lawsuit, according to Luther Granquist, plaintiff counsel on the case

In 1972 Richard Welsch sought help from the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis for his daughter, Patricia Marie, a resident of Cambridge State Hospital. He told Neil Mickenberg, an attorney there, that Patricia was at that “hellhole” and wondered if Neil could do anything about it.

Welsch had heard that Mickenberg and Jeffrey Hartje, another Legal Aid lawyer, had been told by state hospital professional staff that Cambridge and Faribault State Hospitals were ripe for the kind of lawsuits that had been brought in other states.

On August 30, 1972, with the support of The Arc Minnesota, they sued state officials charging that the residents at Cambridge, Faribault, and four other state institutions were denied their rights to habilitation and to live in less restrictive community settings.

The lawsuit lasted seventeen years. The trials in the 1970s centered on Cambridge State Hospital. A trial in 1980 involving Faribault, Moose Lake, Brainerd and Fergus Falls State Hospitals led to a settlement that included Rochester, St. Peter, and Willmar State Hospitals. Another settlement in 1987 led to a final dismissal of the case in 1989.


In the early years, attorneys from the Minnesota Disability Law Center at Legal Aid focused on institutional conditions—lack of adequate staff, excess use of medication and restraint, and a deplorable living environment. In the 1980s, the focus was on moving people from the institution to community homes, with an emphasis as well on the quality of care provided persons discharged.

No court order or settlement agreement in the case required closing of the state institutions, but the court action coupled with funding under the home and community-based waiver, and a steadily growing commitment by state and county officials to provide community-based services, led to that result over the next eleven years.

A Brief History of the Welsch Case by Luther Granquist »


Welsch Trial Photo Gallery  

Photographs from the 1973 trial (from With an Eye to the Past)

Photo Exhibits from Welsch

Welsch-related Interviews from With an Eye to the Past

Eleanor Welsch

Eleanor Welsch, mother of Patty Welsch, whose parents filed the landmark federal suit over lack of care at Cambridge State Hospital.

Part 1: The Beginning of the Welsch Case from a Mother’s Viewpoint
Part 2: The Cambridge Experience
Part 3: Group Homes are a “Godsend”

Luther Granquist

Luther Granquist, with Anne Henry, both of the Minnesota Disability Law Center, served as plaintiff counsel on the Welsch case.

Part 1: The 45th Anniversary of the Welsch Case Beginning
Part 2: Lack of Individual Assessment and Structured Activity at Cambridge

Anne Henry

Anne Henry of the Minnesota Disability Law Center, worked with Luther Granquist on the Welsch case.

Part 1: Restraint and Seclusion at State Hospitals
Part 2: Dehumanization Practices
Part 3: Getting Children Out of Institutions

View more interviews about this time period »

An Index of Documents Related to Welsch from With an Eye to the Past, including orders in that action in the federal district court and related documents.

The Disability Justice Resource Center has a summary of the lawsuit, the Welsch decision, and the Welsch Consent Decree.

Faribault State Hospital

At a trial in the Welsch case in 1980 involving Faribault, Moose Lake, Brainerd, and Fergus Falls State Hospitals, the plaintiffs presented small black and white photos of the four institutions as part of their case. The defendants never presented their response, because they agreed to the Consent Decree the federal court issued in September 1980. They had, however, prepared a set of color photographs of the same scenes with some added commentary. 

Photos contributed to the Council by Mel Heckt.

Photo Exhibits from Welsch

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2301MNSCDD-02, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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