Signing an Admission Agreement as a “Responsible Party” on behalf of another person can lead to personal liability for the patient’s debts to the facility

   In Royal Suites Healthcare and RehabilitationCenter v. Estate of Dora Palladino, et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, A-1711-09T1, the Court held that falsely claiming a power of attorney for someone can render you personally liable for their healthcare-related debts.

   Here, Theodore Fusco admitted his aunt, Dora Palladino, who was suffering from various medical ailments including dementia, into a residential nursing home (Royal Suites).  The admission agreement that Fusco signed stated that “If the Responsible Party managed the Resident’s finances, he or she would be responsible for making payments owed to Royal suites from the Resident’s funds.”  Fusco signed the admission agreement on the line indicating “Signature of Responsible Party.”  Under his signature, Fusco wrote “P.O.A.;” however, Fusco did not have a power of attorney for his aunt. 

   After two months, Palladino became ineligible for Medicare.  Palladino remained at Royal Suites as a “private pay” resident; however, payment was never made.  Following Palladino’s death, Royal Suites pursued Fusco personally for payment on the debt. 

   The trial court held Fusco liable for Palladino’s debt.  The trial judge noted that with a power of attorney, you act as the other person’s agent.  Without that power of attorney, you are simply acting on your own, as an individual who is guaranteeing payment.  Fusco appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed. 

   The Court’s decision in Royal Suites teaches us that anyone admitting a relative into a nursing home or other facility must be aware of the ramifications of signing admission documents.  When one signs such documents as a “Responsible Party” on behalf of another, it can lead to liability for the patient’s debts to the facility.