Man Cannot Prevent Brother's Attempt to Discharge Debt Under Filial Responsibility Law

A U.S. district court affirms a bankruptcy court's decision that a man cannot prevent the discharge of his brother's debt owed to their mother's assisted living facility under Pennsylvania's filial responsibility law because the man was not a creditor of his brother. In re: Skinner (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Pa., No. 14-6697, May 27, 2015).

Dorothy Skinner lived in an assisted living facility until she was evicted for non-payment. The facility sued Ms. Skinner's sons, Thomas and William, under Pennsylvania's filial responsibility law. The court entered a default judgment against Thomas for $32,224.56. Thomas filed for bankruptcy and sought to discharge the debt.

William filed a claim in the bankruptcy court, arguing that Thomas's debt was non-dischargeable because it resulted from fraud and embezzlement. William argued that Thomas used their mother's assets for his personal expenses, so if William was liable to the assisted living facility, he was entitled to be reimbursed by Thomas.  A U.S. bankruptcy court dismissed the claim, holding that William did not have standing because he was not a creditor of the debtor.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania affirms the bankruptcy court's decision, holding that William is not a creditor of Thomas. According to the court, Pennsylvania's filial support law does not provide for contribution or reimbursement, so it does not give William a claim against Thomas.

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For a brief commentary on the decision by Penn State Dickinson Law professor Katherine C. Pearson, click here

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