There is a law suddenly being enforced with gusto in Pennsylvania. The law can force adult children to pay their parents' health-care costs.
If Mom and Pop can't pay, you pay. If they have the money but refuse to pay, you pay. If you don't, watch your credit rating sink under the weight of a legal judgment that will haunt you for life.
It happened to Don Grant. It can happen to you.
The Havertown man is nearly 50 and struggling to pay his mortgage and $100,000 in student loans incurred by his daughter, a recent Albright College grad.
Last year, Grant was sued because his mother, Diana Fichera, did not pay an $8,000 bill at a Delaware County nursing home, where she rehabilitated after surgery.
Grant went to court with his half-sister, who was also sued. He told the nursing-home attorney that he's estranged from his mother and that Fichera has income from Social Security plus two pensions.
The nursing-home lawyer told Grant that all would be resolved if Fichera paid up. When she again refused, the judgment was entered against the whole family.
Public records show pages of judgments and liens against Fichera, 71, who receives a $1,434 monthly pension after working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 23 years. (Unlike wages, which can be garnisheed, Social Security and pensions are generally exempt from seizure.)
In 2006, the Wallingford Nursing & Rehab Center sued Fichera for not paying a $28,000bill. Two years later, she accrued another debt at Brinton Manor in Glen Mills. This time, the nursing-home lawyer got creative.
Blue Bell lawyer Brian Scott Dietrich represents Brinton Manor, but did not return phone calls for comment. Pennsylvania State University law professor Katherine Pearson knew why as soon as I mentioned his name.
"There are three or four major lawyers in Pennsylvania who specialize in representing nursing homes and hospitals, and one of their favorite tools is Pennsylvania's filial statute. Dietrich is one of them," says Pearson, an expert on the arcane issue, also known as "support of indigents."
"These attorneys will bring suit against adult children even if the children live out of state and even if it's been years since they had contact with their parent."
The legal concept of requiring children to support their parents predates colonial America.
"The worst part? She's got as much money coming in as we do," he says. "And I'm being held responsible for her irresponsibility."
I have come to the conclusion that we have a severe overpopulation of lawyers. What do we do when we have an overpopulation of dogs? We put some to sleep. I propose we put a few thousand lawyers to sleep. Ethically challenged assholes. How much goddamn dumber can we get as a society before we're just unmoving, unthinking, globs of primordial goo, oozing around on the ground, drooling and running into one another? Whatever happened to taking responsibility for yourself? The next thing we know, we'll be responsible for the dept of everybody who lives on the same block, or the same neighborhood, or maybe even the same state. Oh yeah, Obama the Socialist Savior is in office. We're closer than we may think.