Nursing Home Debt Collector’s Filial Support Lawsuit Against Family Does Not Violate Fair Debt Collection Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holds that a law firm that was attempting to collect a debt from a nursing home resident’s family did not violate debt collection law when it filed a lawsuit against the family based on Pennsylvania’s filial support law. Eades v. Kennedy, PC Law Offices (U.S. Ct. App., 2nd Cir., No. 14-104-cv, June 5, 2015).

Joni Eades’ mother died owing the Pennsylvania nursing home she resided in around $8,000. The nursing home hired Kennedy, PC Law Offices to collect the debt from Ms. Eades and her father. Kennedy sent a letter to Ms. Eades, stating that she could be held liable for the debt under Pennsylvania’s filial support statute. During a phone call with Ms. Eades, a Kennedy employee stated that if the debt was not paid, Kennedy would put a lien on her father’s house and garnish her wages.

Kennedy filed a complaint against Ms. Eades and her father for failing to pay the debt. Ms. Eades and her father filed a lawsuit in federal court against Kennedy alleging that it violated the fair debt collection law. The district court granted Kennedy’s motion to dismiss, ruling that it did not have jurisdiction over Kennedy and that Ms. Eades’ obligation to pay the nursing home was not a debt. Ms. Eades and her father appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, affirms in part and remands in part. The court holds that while the court does have jurisdiction over Kennedy and while Ms. Eades’ obligation to pay the nursing home was a debt, there was no conflict between the federal nursing home law and Pennsylvania’s support law, so filing a lawsuit under the filial support law did not violate the debt collection law.  However, the court remands to the district court the issue of whether the phone call from the Kennedy employee to Ms. Eades violated the debt collection law.

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