A Pennsylvania appellate court held that son is liable for his mother’s $93,000 nursing home bill under the state’s filial responsibility law. Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas (Pa. Super.Ct., No. 536 EDA 2011, May 7, 2012).

John Pittas’ mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash in September 2007. Several months later, in March 2008, the mother left the nursing home and moved to Greece. A large portion of her nursing home bills went unpaid. Mr. Pittas’ mother filed an application for Medicaid which was pending at the time this decision was entered.

The nursing home sued Mr. Pittas for nearly $93,000 under the state’s filial support law, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603, which requires a child to provide support for an indigent parent. In that regard, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), all of the following individuals have the responsibility to care for and maintain or financially assist an indigent person, regardless of whether the indigent person is a public charge:

(i) The spouse of the indigent person.

(ii) A child of the indigent person.

(iii) A parent of the indigent person.

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply in any of the following cases:

(i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person.

(ii) A child shall not be liable for the support of a parent who abandoned the child and persisted in the abandonment for a period of ten years during the child’s minority.

The trial court entered a verdict in favor of the nursing home, and Mr. Pittas appealed. On appeal, Mr. Pittas argued that the trial court improperly put the burden of proving his inability to support his mother on him. He also argued that the trial court should have considered alternate forms of payment, such as Medicaid and his mother’s husband and her two other adult children.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed, holding that Mr. Pittas is liable for his mother’s nursing home debt. The court agreed with Mr. Pittas that the nursing home had the burden of proving that Mr. Pittas’ ability to support his mother, but it ruled that the nursing home submitted enough evidence to meet that burden. The court also holds that the law does not require it to consider other sources of income or to stay its determination pending the resolution of the Medicaid claim. It also noted that if Mr. Pittas had wished to share his support burden with other family members, he should have joined them as defendants in the case.

The case is annexed here – Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas

(Courtesy of ElderLawAnswers.com)

UPDATED ON APRIL 10, 2013 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided not to hear appeals from the PA trial court and appeals rulings from last year that a son has filial responsibility for the nursing home bill of his mother who left the nursing home and moved to Greece even though the son did nothing wrong. Thus filial liability is alive and well in Pennsylvania and may be coming to New Jersey and other States. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision is annexed here – PA Supreme Court Decision in Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas