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Judges rule in favor of daughter in payment dispute with nursing facility

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A woman who signed a move-in agreement at a skilled nursing facility as a “responsible party/agent” for her mother was able to prove to the Indiana Court of Appeals she should not be liable for money owed by her mother for care while at the facility.

Alexis Hutchison, pro se, appealed a $2,610.87 judgment against her for services rendered to her mother, Martha Farber, while Farber lived at Springhurst Health Campus. Farber was ill with cancer and required a nearly three-month stay at the facility. She died Feb. 21, 2013, while this litigation was pending.

The agreement Hutchinson signed says that the responsible party/agent agrees to pay the facility the full amount of the resident’s income and resources that the responsible party/agent controls or accesses. Hutchinson’s defense at trial focused on the fact she did not have power of attorney or the authority to manger her mother’s funds. The business manager of Springhurst testified that the facility did not have any records that Hutchinson had power of attorney over her mother. Hutchinson’s husband testified that a facility representative told Hutchinson she would not be personally responsible for her mother’s bill when she signed the agreement.

In Alexis Hutchison and Martha Farber, deceased and Trilogy Health Services, LLC, d/b/a Springhurst Health Campus, 30A01-1307-SC-316, the judges pointed out that Congress has imposed limitations on the concept of a family member being financially responsible for another family member’s care. Some resident-rights advocates claim that third-party guarantee or responsible party provisions are inherently illegal, although some courts have concluded under federal law that third parties can “volunteer” to sign as guarantors of payment to nursing homes.

“It appears Indiana courts have not yet expressly spoken to the legality of the responsible party provisions; although Hutchison urges us to declare that such provisions are unenforceable, we find it unnecessary to reach that issue today,” Judge James Kirsch wrote.

The agreement doesn’t define “responsible party” but says that person agrees to pay the full amount of the resident’s income and resources “that the Responsible Party/Agent controls or accesses.” There is no evidence that Hutchinson ever had authority to “manage, use, control or access” her mother’s income, financial accounts or other resources, as written in the agreement. The trial court erred, so the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for Hutchinson.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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