Lawsuit Against Nursing Home Resident’s Wife and Daughter Did Not Violate Consumer Protection Law

An Ohio appeals court rules that a nursing home’s lawsuit against a resident’s wife and daughter for the resident’s unpaid balance did not violate a state consumer protection law. Vesper v. Otterbein Lebanon (Ohio Ct. App., 12th Dist., No. CA2021-02-016, Dec. 27, 2021).

George Vesper entered a nursing home, and his wife, Mary Gloria Vesper, signed the admission agreement as his representative, agreeing to use his funds to pay for his care. Mr. Vesper’s daughter, Catherine Vesper, was Mr. Vesper’s agent under a power of attorney, and she worked with the nursing home to have Mr. Vesper’s Medicaid benefits transitioned to the nursing home. During Mr. Vesper’s Medicaid redetermination, the state cut off Mr. Vesper’s benefits. The benefits were later reinstated.

After Mr. Vesper died, the nursing home sued Mary Gloria and Catherine for the unpaid balance during the period Mr. Vesper’s benefits were suspended. After a hearing, the state paid the balance, and the nursing home dropped the case. Mary Gloria and Catherine sued the nursing home under the state’s consumer sales practice law, alleging the nursing home acted unfairly, deceptively, and unconscionably by attempting to collect a debt that they were not liable for. The trial court granted summary judgment to the nursing home.

The Ohio Court of Appeals affirms, holding that the nursing home’s claims in its lawsuit against Mary Gloria and Catherine were not unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable. According to the court, even though Mary Gloria and Catherine may have had valid defenses against the nursing home’s claims, the claims were colorable and not groundless because it was undisputed that the nursing home paid for Mr. Vesper’s care for six months without reimbursement and that Mary Gloria signed as his representative while Catherine was his agent under a power of attorney.

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