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CHILDREN CAN BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR A PARENT’S MEDICAL BILLS

Approximately 29 states, including Pennsylvania, have laws making adult children financially responsible for the care and maintenance of their parents if their parents can’t afford to take care of themselves.  These laws have taken on new significance in law suits by third parties such as nursing homes and other health care providers.

Pennsylvania’s filial support law can be found at 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4603. It provides that 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; and (iii) A parent of the indigent person.  There is no responsibility for financial support: (i) If an individual does not have sufficient financial ability to support the indigent person; or (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.

This law was enforced by the Pennsylvania courts in the case of Health Care & Ret. Corp. of Am. v. Pittas, 2012 PA Super 96, 46 A.3d 719, 721 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2012), reargument denied (July 18, 2012), appeal denied, 619 Pa. 706, 63 A.3d 1248 (2013).  In Pittas a son was held liable for his mother’s $93,000 nursing home bill.  Following treatment in a rehabilitation facility the mother moved overseas leaving a large portion of her medical bills unpaid. The nursing home sued the son who was one of three adult children. Both the trial court and an appeals court found the son responsible for his mother’s unpaid nursing home bill, rejecting his arguments that the courts should have considered alternate forms of payment, such as Medicaid, his mother’s husband or her two other adult children.

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