Warren County widow wins nursing home fight over dead spouse’s bills

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 5-2 today that a Carlisle nursing home was required to file a claim with the estate of Robert Bell before it could pursue payment for his care from his widow, under Ohio’s “necessaries statute.”

The ruling came out of a lawsuit filed against an 80-year-old Franklin Twp. woman, Cora Bell, in Franklin Municipal Court over an unpaid $1,678 nursing home bill for her husband's care.

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In the majority opinion, Justice Judith L. French explained the law "directs a spouse to care for the other if the spouse is unable to do so. Because the nursing home did not attempt to find out if Robert Bell, through his estate, was able to pay the bill, it could not pursue Cora Sue Bell for payment," according to a press release from the court.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy and Mary DeGenaro joined Justice French’s opinion.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Patrick DeWine “wrote that the plain language of the necessaries statute does not require that a creditor first pursue payment from the spouse’s estate,” according to the release.

Justice Patrick F. Fischer also dissented without a written opinion.

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