Nursing Home Claim Questioned in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Attorney David J. Correira was interviewed in the December 7, 2009 edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly about his thoughts on a Massachusetts nursing home liability case in which it was determined that a widow's seperately owned real estate could be used to satisfy her husband's nursing home debt. In the case, East Longmeadow Management Systems Inc. v. Wilson, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge decided, that a 1974 statute repealed an older statute, from 1910, by implication. Under M.G.L. c. 209 § 7, a husband can be held liable for his wife's "necessaries" (which includes medical and nursing home care), while, at the same time, a wife cannot be held liable for the same "necessaries" of her husband. In contrast, under M.G.L. c. 209 § 1, both spouses can be held liable for the other's necessaries.
However, according to Attorney Correira, the two different statutes are not directly in conflict with one another. He noted that section 1 relates to property held as tenants by the entirety, while section 7 relates to debts. "It's not as if section 1 is 200 pages away from section 7, so in terms of legislative history, I find it hard to believe that the Legislature enacted section 1 without knowing section 7 existed . . . I think it's a matter of section 7 needing clarification, I don't think its void, and I don't think the Superior Court has the ability to say its void, though perhaps the Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court does."
He continued that the case, "has almost guaranteed an appeal. This is definitely a case that you want to see what happens, whether the Legislature acts to clarify section 7 or whether or not the lawsuit goes any further."