Conn. Residents Sue Over Ebola Quarantines

Feb 9, 2016

In this July 2012 photo provided by Ryan Boyko, Boyko is shown in a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Boyko, a Yale doctoral student, said Tuesday Oct. 28, 2014, that the Connecticut order to quarantine him at home following his return from Liberia earlier in the month was based on politics, not science. Boyko, was confined to his apartment in New Haven out of concern that he was exposed to Ebola while helping Liberia's government develop a computer system to track the virus.
Credit (AP Photo/Julia Randall)

In 2014, the state of Connecticut quarantined nine residents due to fears of Ebola. They’d just come back from Liberia, one of the countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but they didn’t have Ebola. Eight of the nine are now suing the state in a lawsuit filed by students at Yale Law School.

The defendants include a current and former student at the Yale School of Public Health, and a family of six from Liberia. All eight were ordered to stay in their homes even though they showed no symptoms of the disease. A person with Ebola isn’t contagious until they show symptoms. Ryan Boyko was one of the Public Health students quarantined by the state.

“It was awful. I was isolated from my classmates and professors," he said. "My girlfriend had to move out and find emergency housing with no help from the state. Worst of all, I had to go weeks without seeing my son, the most important person in the world to me.”

Elizabeth Deutsch is one of the law school students who filed the suit. She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended letting people move freely and self-monitor for symptoms. She said by restricting people, Connecticut violated the constitution.

“We believe that Connecticut did not use the least restrictive means, which is required under the United States Constitution when you are going to impinge on the fundamental liberties of individuals, in their effort to contain Ebola,” she said.

A spokesman for Governor Dannel Malloy said the state’s first priority is protecting the public from harm, and that the state would continue to be prepared for public emergencies.

This is the second high-profile lawsuit against a state for its response to Ebola. Health worker Kasi Hickox was held in a tent in New Jersey for four days in 2014 after she returned from Sierra Leone. She filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the state’s health department, in October. There were four cases of Ebola in the U.S. in 2014, but none of them were in Connecticut.