Nursing Home's Claim Against Resident's Spouse Under Necessaries Statute Can Continue

An Ohio court of appeals holds that a nursing home's claim against the spouse of a former resident under the state's necessaries statute may continue because evidence that the resident had Medicare was not enough to affirmatively prove he could take care of himself. Embassy Healthcare v. Bell (Ohio Ct. App., 12th Dist., No. CA2016-08-07, Jan. 24, 2017).

Cora Sue Bell's husband, Robert, resided in a nursing home for a few months before he died, accruing $1,678 in unpaid nursing services.

The nursing home sued Mrs. Bell under Ohio's necessaries statute. The statute requires a married person to pay for a spouse's necessities if the spouse is unable to support him- or herself. Mrs. Bell argued that Mr. Bell could support himself because he had 54 days of skilled nursing home Medicare coverage remaining. The trial court granted summary judgment to Mrs. Bell, ruling that the nursing home was required to pursue a claim against Mr. Bell's estate before pursuing a claim under the necessaries statute. The nursing home appealed.

The Ohio Court of Appeals, 12th District, reverses, holding that summary judgment is not appropriate because more facts are needed to determine whether Mr. Bell could support himself. The court rules that the necessaries statute creates a separate cause of action that is not dependent on pursuing a claim against the estate. According to the court, the fact that Mr. Bell had insurance policies through Medicare that may have covered the nursing costs is not enough to affirmatively demonstrate that the nursing home "could not establish the inability to support element of its necessaries claim."

For the full text of this decision, go to: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/12/2017/2017-Ohio-1499.pdf

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