This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Extendicare Health Services, Inc.,
Craig T. Henderson,
Brett F. Henderson,
Filed April 3, 2007
Anoka County District Court
File No. C3-05-3915
Mark Pitzele, Zenaida Chico, Mark
Terri A. Melcher, Larson & Melcher, 6401 University Avenue Northeast, Suite 201, Fridley, MN 55432; and Norris J. Skogerboe, Skoberboe Law Offices, PLLC, Raintree Professional Center, 11937 Central Avenue Northeast, Blaine, MN 55434 (for respondent Craig T. Henderson)
Mark V. Steffenson, Erin R.
Schulte, Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.,
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant nursing home challenges the district court’s grant of summary judgment to respondents, arguing that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether one or both respondents is personally liable under Minn. Stat. § 144.6501 (2004) for the unpaid costs of respondents’ mother’s nursing-home care. Because we conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact that precludes summary judgment, we affirm.
In May 2000, respondent Brett Henderson admitted his mother, Helen Henderson, to a nursing home owned by appellant Extendicare Health Services, Inc. (EHS). As part of the admission process, Brett Henderson signed a form “admissions agreement” on a line that designated him to be the “responsible party.” The admissions agreement included the following provision:
By signing this Agreement, the Resident’s Responsible Party agrees to the following:
1. That he/she has access to the Resident’s income, assets, and resources and agrees to apply the Resident’s income, assets, and resources to pay for the Resident’s care.
2. To take responsibility to work directly with the Resident to assist him/her, or if that is not practicable the Responsible Party will perform the following:
a. To make and complete [an] application for Medical Assistance within thirty (30) day[s] of the date on which the Resident appears to be eligible for Medical Assistance.
. . . .
c. To assist the Resident, [the nursing home], Medical Assistance, and any other designated parties in properly utilizing and applying all designated assets and funds to pay for all charges assessed by [the nursing home] for the care of the Resident.
Notably, Brett Henderson did not sign the admissions agreement on the line designating him to be a “guarantor,” who, according to the signature page of the admissions agreement, “agrees to be individually as well as jointly liable for, and hereby assumes financial responsibility for, the Resident’s care and for payments of all sums due under this Agreement.” Neither Helen Henderson nor her other son, respondent Craig Henderson, signed the admissions agreement.
Initially, insurance paid for Helen Henderson’s nursing-home care. When her insurance provider discontinued coverage, her family applied for medical assistance on her behalf, but the request was denied on the ground that she had too many assets to be eligible. When Helen Henderson died in April 2001, her account at the nursing home had an unpaid balance. Helen Henderson’s will designated Craig Henderson as her personal representative and as the sole beneficiary of her residuary estate. Evidence in the record indicates that Helen Henderson’s estate contained assets at her death sufficient to pay the balance of her account. But EHS did not make a claim against Helen Henderson’s estate, and the statutory time period for doing so expired.
EHS sued respondents, alleging that each violated Minn. Stat. § 144.6501 (2006). The district court granted respondents’ motions for summary judgment. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
an appeal from summary judgment, this court asks two questions: (1) whether
genuine issues of material fact exist and (2) whether the district court erred
in its application of the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2,
Minn. Stat. § 144.6501 (2006) governs nursing-home admission contracts. Minn. Stat. § 144.6501, subd. 4(d), provides:
A person who desires to assume financial responsibility for the resident’s care may contract with the facility to do so. A person other than the resident or a financially responsible spouse who signs an admission contract must not be required by the facility to assume personal financial liability for the resident’s care. However, if the responsible party has signed the admission contract and fails to make timely payment of the facility obligation, or knowingly fails to spend down the resident’s assets appropriately for the purpose of obtaining medical assistance, then the responsible party shall be liable to the facility for the resident’s costs of care which are not paid for by medical assistance. A responsible party shall be personally liable only to the extent the resident’s income or assets were misapplied.
To be a “responsible
party” under section 144.6501, and thus financially liable for a nursing-home
resident’s care, an individual must both (1) have access to the resident’s
income and assets, and (2) either agree to apply the resident’s income and
assets to pay for the resident’s care or agree to apply for medical assistance
on behalf of the resident.
district court granted summary judgment to Craig Henderson because it concluded
that, although he satisfies the first element of the definition of a
“responsible party” by admitting that he had access to his mother’s income and
assets as her personal representative, he did not satisfy the second element of
the definition. EHS offered no evidence
to the district court that Craig Henderson agreed “to apply the resident’s
income and assets to pay for the resident’s care” or “to make and complete an
application for medical assistance on behalf of the resident.” See
EHS argues that even though Craig Henderson did not sign the admissions agreement as a responsible party, he should be personally liable under Minn. Stat. § 144.6501, subd. 4, because he had control of Helen Henderson’s assets and because the intent of section 144.6501, subdivision 4, is to ensure that nursing homes are paid for the care that they provide to patients. EHS asserts that respondents ought not be allowed to avoid the law by dividing responsibility so that neither is liable under the statute.
there is no ambiguity in the provision of the statute that defines a
“responsible party,” and when statutory language is unambiguous, this court applies
its plain meaning, which presumably manifests legislative intent. See
Ruter v. State, 695 N.W.2d 389, 393 (Minn. App. 2005), review denied (
Henderson also argues that this court “perhaps” should review the district
court’s conclusion that statutes imposing time limits on claims against the
personal representative and the distributees of an estate do not apply
here. But he failed to file a notice of
review with this court, so we decline to consider his argument.
The district court granted summary judgment to Brett Henderson because, although Brett Henderson agreed to apply his mother’s assets to pay for her nursing-home care when he signed the admissions agreement, thereby satisfying the second element of the definition of a “responsible party,” EHS “has not provided any evidence to indicate that Brett Henderson actually had access to his mother’s income or assets during his mother’s life or after her death.”
EHS argues that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Brett Henderson had access to Helen Henderson’s assets. First, EHS notes, Brett Henderson represented that he had access to those assets when he signed the admissions agreement as a responsible party. EHS points next to an affidavit submitted by Brett Henderson in the district-court proceedings in which he states that he “agreed to make [his] best effort to ensure that [Helen Henderson’s] account would be paid out of her own assets” when he signed the admissions agreement. Finally, EHS points to the fact that Brett Henderson is listed in EHS’s records as the person to whom bills should be sent. These facts, EHS argues, create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Brett Henderson had access to Helen Henderson’s assets.
Brett Henderson argues that the evidence to which EHS points is “[m]ere speculation.” We agree. The statement in Brett Henderson’s affidavit to which EHS refers gives no indication that he had access to his mother’s assets, nor does the fact that EHS sent bills to Brett Henderson’s home. And Brett Henderson’s representation in the admissions agreement that he had access to his mother’s assets does not, without more, create a genuine issue of material fact. As the district court noted, Minn. Stat. § 144.6501 requires that a responsible party actually have access to the resident’s income and assets, not that he merely hold himself out as having access.
The evidence to which EHS points to establish that Brett Henderson had access to his mother’s assets is not sufficiently probative to create a genuine issue of material fact. We conclude that Brett Henderson does not meet the statutory definition of a “responsible party,” notwithstanding the fact that he signed EHS’s form admissions agreement on a line designating him as such. Therefore, he cannot be held personally liable under Minn. Stat. § 144.6501. We need not consider whether EHS has offered sufficient evidence that Brett Henderson violated the statute by failing to “make timely payment” to EHS or spend down his mother’s assets to secure medical assistance, or that he misapplied his mother’s assets. See Northfield Care Center, Inc. v. Anderson, 707 N.W.2d 731, 735 (Minn. App. 2006) (noting that Minn. Stat. § 144.6501, subd. 4(d), imposes personal liability “only to the extent the resident’s income or assets were misapplied”). Summary judgment was appropriately granted to Brett Henderson.
EHS also argues that the doctrines of equitable estoppel and apparent authority demand reversal of the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Brett Henderson. Brett Henderson argues that because EHS did not raise these arguments to the district court, it cannot raise them on appeal. EHS asserts that it had “no reason” to raise its equitable-estoppel and apparent-authority arguments below because it “was unaware that the district court would improperly weigh evidence and decide that [Brett Henderson’s] denial of his assertion in the signed admissions contract carried more weight than the contract itself.” EHS claims that it raises these arguments on appeal not as “separate cause[s] of action” but in response to the district court’s “improper weighing of facts.”
disagree that anything in the district court’s order gave EHS new reason to
raise arguments based on equitable estoppel or apparent authority. Brett Henderson denied in his motion for
summary judgment to the district court that he had access to his mother’s
assets. And it was this denial to which
EHS’s equitable-estoppel and apparent-authority arguments respond. EHS had a reason and an opportunity to raise
these arguments to the district court and to present evidence sufficient to
create a genuine issue of material fact regarding the elements of each
doctrine. Because they were not raised
below, EHS’s equitable-estoppel and apparent-authority arguments are waived. Thiele
v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582-83 (
We note with some concern that although Minn. Stat. § 144.6501, subd. 4(d), prohibits nursing homes from requiring any person “other than the resident or a financially responsible spouse who signs an admission contract” to assume personal financial liability for the resident’s care, nothing in the record suggests that EHS offers any alternative to the form admissions agreement that Brett Henderson signed here. And the record does not show that EHS told Brett Henderson that it could not require him to assume any financial responsibility for his mother’s care. Instead, the EHS admissions agreement appears to require a “responsible party” signature, at least when, as here, the resident does not sign the agreement, in an apparent attempt to impose statutory personal financial liability under specified circumstances. A nursing home that offers no alternative to the type of form admissions agreement that Brett Henderson signed here is in danger of violating the statute governing nursing-home admission contracts.