by Kathryn Simpson
Did you know that, under Pennsylvania law, you are responsible to care for and maintain or financially assist your indigent spouse, child, and/or parent? The only exception would be if you lacked the financial ability to do so or, in the case of support for a parent, where that parent abandoned you for a period of ten years during your minority. A recent case out of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America, v. John Pittas, 46 A.3d 719 (Pa. Super. 2012), ruled on a case involving this law.
In the Pittas case, a nursing home sought payment for the skilled care and rehabilitation provided to a woman following an auto accident. The nursing home filed a complaint for filial support against Mr. Pittas, the woman's son and while he did not argue with the law, he contested where the burden should be placed to prove that he had the financial ability to support his mother and that his mother was indigent. The Superior Court agreed with the court that heard the evidence that the burden of proving the son's ability to pay was correctly placed on the nursing home seeking payment and that the son did not rebut the evidence. The Court also held that the mother was properly determined to be indigent, citing to the definition of that term found in earlier cases: "'Indigent' includes, but is not limited to, those who are completely destitute and helpless. It also encompasses those persons who have some limited means, but whose means are not sufficient to adequately provide for their maintenance and support." The award of $92,943.41 was affirmed.
It is important to be aware of this law and to take steps to ensure that persons that you may have financial responsibility for have the appropriate insurance and that any care giver will look solely to that insurance to satisfy their charges. Please contact any of the Estates & Trusts attorneys at Mette, Evans & Woodside to discuss this case further.