Niece Who Did Not Sign Admissions Agreement As "Responsible Party" For Aunt Is Not Liable For Aunt’s Unpaid Nursing Home Bill

A Rhode Island trial court holds that a niece who signed a nursing home admissions agreement on behalf of her aunt did not sign as a responsible party, and is therefore not personally liable for her aunt’s unpaid nursing home bill. Sunny View Nursing Home, Inc. v. Gorman (R.I. Super. Ct., No. KC 11-0491, Dec. 4, 2012).

Susan Carr had a joint checking account with her aunt Henrietta Gorman and served as her attorney-in-fact. When Ms. Gorman entered a nursing home, Ms. Carr signed an admissions agreement on her behalf. The agreement had separate provisions for a “responsible party” and for a “representative.” Ms. Carr paid for Ms. Gorman’s nursing home care from the joint account until the funds were depleted. After Ms. Gorman’s Medicaid application was denied, Ms. Gorman left the nursing home.

The nursing home sued Ms. Carr, arguing she was personally liable for Ms. Gorman’s unpaid bill. Ms. Carr testified that she signed the agreement as a representative, not as the responsible party. The nursing home claimed that anyone who signed the agreement was a responsible party.

The Rhode Island Superior Court enters judgment for Ms. Carr, holding that she is not liable for her aunt’s nursing home care. The court finds that the agreement is ambiguous because the definition of “responsible party” and the capacity in which one is signing the agreement are not clear. According to the court, the evidence shows that Ms. Carr signed the agreement as a representative, not a responsible party, and the liability of a representative and a responsible party are not the same.

For the full text of this decision, go to: Sunny View Nursing Home, Inc. v. Gorman

(Case summary courtesy of, The Web’s Most Trusted Long-Term Care and Planning Resource)