Tri-Counties Ass'n v. Ventura County Public GuardianAnnotate this Case
The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court's decision reversing the ALJ's finding that A.V. met the statutory criteria for developmental disability: he had a qualifying condition of autism, i.e., ASD; his ASD was substantially disabling; and the condition originated before age 18. The ALJ rejected the Regional Center's argument that a qualifying condition must not only originate but must also become "substantially disabling" before age 18. Although the superior court agreed with the ALJ's decision to the extent it found a claimant's qualifying condition need not become substantially disabling before age 18, it found that the ALJ erred by weighing the parties' evidence "on an even playing field" rather than deferring to the Regional Center's opinions about A.V.'s eligibility for services under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act.
The court concluded that the superior court erred when it deferred to the Regional Center's eligibility determinations. The court explained that a fair hearing under the Act is just that – an even playing field on which the participants present their evidence to an impartial hearing officer. In this case, the superior court owed deference not to the Regional Center's evaluators but to the administrative process created to fairly resolve disputes over eligibility for services. Accordingly, the court directed the superior court to review the petition under the appropriate standard on remand.