Woods Services and Disability Rights New York settled a 2018 defamation lawsuit prompted by a DRNY report highly critical of Woods, a Langhorne nonprofit that serves children and adults with autism and intellectual and development disabilities.
Woods and DRNY expressed regret that they were not more collaborative in the preparation of the 2017 report and in the response to it, they said in a joint statement filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“DRNY regrets not giving Woods a meaningful opportunity to either respond to or provide relevant information concerning the assertions in the Report before DRNY published it,” the joint statement said.
The January 2018 defamation lawsuit by Woods followed the October 2017, report by DRNY called “Abuse and Neglect of New York Residents at Woods Services in Pennsylvania."
The 26-page report alleged that Woods’ “facilities and programs have serious and troubling deficiencies. Accordingly, individuals with disabilities at Woods are at risk of serious injury, death, psychological harm, and trauma.”
Woods responded with a 12-page rebuttal, arguing that DRNY’s document was “filled with allegations that are untrue, exaggerated, missing critical facts, and defamatory.”
The settlement, under which each side pays its own costs, said that both the original report and the response “are permanently withdrawn, and will be removed from the websites of DRNY and Woods respectively, will not be further disseminated, and should not be used or relied upon by any third parties for any purpose.”
DRNY investigated Woods as part of its role as designated federal Protection and Advocacy System for individuals with disabilities in New York. That designation gives it broad authority to monitor and investigate conditions and allegations of neglect at facilities that provide care for New Yorkers with disabilities.
When DRNY started investigating Woods in the fall of 2016, 111 New Yorkers were residing there. Woods said last week that 100 of the 589 children and adults at Woods now are from New York.
Shortly after the DRNY report was published, a team of 13 officials from New Jersey, also a source of many out-of-staters for Woods, spent five hours on the site to check on the 125 New Jersey adults living at Woods at the time and found no health or safety concerns, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Human Services said at the time.