Planning for Life

Live Up to Your Commitment to the Nursing Home, or Beware

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 30, 2012

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By Harry S. Margolis

A recent Connecticut case highlights the risk to family members of nursing home residents who don't live up to their commitments to such facilities.

As background, always advise clients to sign nursing home admission agreements only as representatives of their parents (or other family members), not for themselves. Also, family members should be aware that nursing facilities cannot require a personal financial guarantee as a condition of admitting to the family member.

The case of Cook Willow Health Center v. Andrien, however, highlights the potential risk to the family member who doesn't sign a personal guarantee, but who does not live up to other commitments to the facility. In this case, Judy Andrien signed an admission agreement on behalf of her mother as "responsible party" agreeing to take steps to ensure that the facility was paid from her mother's assets or by Medicaid.

The facility sued Ms. Andrien claiming that she did not live up to this commitment. She moved to dismiss the case arguing that she cannot be held liable because she did not agree to use her own funds to pay for her mother's care.

The court rules in the facility's favor stating that the claim is not that Ms. Adrien is a personal guarantor or surety of payment, but that she is in breach of contract for not using her mother's funds to pay the nursing home or taking steps to get her mother Medicaid coverage. The court's ruling means that the case will continue to trial on the nursing home's claim, which it still must prove.

The moral of this case is that even when family members do not commit their own funds to pay for the care of family members, they can be personally liable if they do not satisfy commitments they make to the facility.  (Though one might argue the defense that since the facility cannot make the family member's commitment a condition of admission, there was no consideration provided by the facility and that portion of the admission contract may not be enforced.)

Topics: long-term care planning, nursing homes

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