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ALBERT LANSING AND CATHERINE LANSING v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (02/11/80)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: February 11, 1980.

ALBERT LANSING AND CATHERINE LANSING, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare v. Albert Lansing and Catherine Lansing, his wife, No. GD 76-13504.

COUNSEL

Andrew M. Schifino, for appellants.

Robert S. Englesberg, Assistant Attorney General, with him, Edward G. Biester, Jr., Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer. Judge DiSalle did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Mencer

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 288]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare (DPW) commenced an action in assumpsit against Albert Lansing and Catherine Lansing, his wife (appellants) to recover the cost of maintaining their son, David Lansing, in Mayview State Hospital (Mayview) for various periods of time between January 11, 1972 and January 16, 1974. David Lansing was born on June 14, 1945 and was over 26 years of age when treatment began and over 28 years of age at the time of his last confinement. David was indigent at the time of his admission to Mayview, as well as during his treatment periods and at the time the assumpsit suit was commenced. The amount of the expenses incurred by DPW in maintaining David Lansing at Mayview totaled $3,878.68 and is the sum of money which the assumpsit action seeks to recover.

This case was tried non-jury before the Honorable Robert Doyle, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, following which a verdict was

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 289]

    rendered in favor of the DPW for $3,878.68. On September 22, 1978, judgment on the verdict was entered and this appeal followed. We affirm.

The DPW foundationed its action on provisions of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 (Mental Health Act), Act of October 20, 1966, Special Sess. No. 3, P.L. 96, as amended, 50 P.S. § 4101 et seq., and Section 3 of the Act of June 1, 1915, P.L. 661, as amended (Act of 1915), 71 P.S. § 1783.

Section 502 of the Mental Health Act, 50 P.S. § 4502, at the time in question, provided:

Except as provided in section 504 [50 P.S. § 4504],*fn1 whenever any person admitted, committed

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 290]

    or otherwise receiving any service or benefit under this act shall be unable to discharge the obligation imposed upon him by Section 501 [50 P.S. § 4501],*fn2 such liability is hereby

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 291]

    imposed upon any person owing a legal duty to support the person admitted, committed or otherwise receiving services or benefits under this act. (Footnotes added.)

Section 3 of the Act of 1915, inter alia, provides:

The husband, wife, father, mother, child or children of any person who is an inmate of any asylum, hospital, home or other institution, maintained in whole or in part by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and who is legally able so to do, shall be liable to pay for the maintenance of . . . such person. . . .

From this cited law we can readily perceive that the obligation of the patient's relatives under the Act of 1915 is a primary obligation in the nature of a suretyship, Commonwealth v. Zommick, 362 Pa. 299, 66 A.2d 237 (1949), and extends to the parent of an incompetent adult child, Boles's Estate, 316 Pa. 179, 173 A. 664 (1934). Further, Section 504 of the Mental Health Act provides the Secretary of the DPW with the power to determine the extent of liability imposed under Section 501 or 502 of the Mental Health Act. Here, in accord with the provisions of Section 504 and the regulations promulgated thereunder, the amount of $3,878.68 was fixed by the revenue agent at Mayview on May 27, 1976 as the extent of liability chargeable to Albert Lansing and Catherine Lansing for the maintenance of their son David at Mayview.*fn3

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 292]

However, the appellants assert that before they can be required to pay for David's maintenance they must be found to be "legally able so to do" and that this can only be done by a proceeding brought under The Support Law, Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2045, as Page 292} amended, 62 P.S. § 1971 et seq., or the Act of 1915. We cannot agree, since Section 701(b) of the Mental Health Act, 50 P.S. § 4701(b), repealed, insofar as they are inconsistent, all other acts and parts of acts. We must conclude that this repealer provision included those portions of The Support Law and the Act of 1915 which are inconsistent with the Mental Health Act. Section 504 of the Mental Health Act provides the procedure for determining the extent of liability imposed under Section 501 or 502 of the Mental Health Act. Thus, the determination made here was done in accordance with applicable law.*fn4

In addition, the appellants contend that because Section 502 of the Mental Health Act was amended in 1974 to extinguish all liability imposed on persons owing a legal duty to support a person admitted, committed or otherwise receiving any service or benefit under the Mental Health Act, after the mentally disabled person attains the age of eighteen, this amendment to the Mental Health Act should be applied retroactively to include the appellants' liability here.

We note that the amending act, effective October 12, 1974, did not make provision for retroactive application. Further, the Statutory Construction Act of

[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 2931972]

, 1 Pa. C.S. § 1501 et seq., inter alia, provides: "No statute shall be construed to be retroactive unless clearly and manifestly so intended by the General Assembly." 1 Pa. C.S. § 1926.

We, like the trial court, find no indication of any legislative intent to suggest that the 1974 amendment to Section 504 of the Mental Health Act should be retroactively applied. Therefore, we will not give the 1974 amendment such application in this case.

Order affirmed.

Order

And Now, this 11th day of February, 1980, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, dated June 13, 1978, dismissing the exceptions of Albert Lansing and Catherine Lansing and ordering the Prothonotary, upon payment of any required fee, to enter judgment in favor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, and against Albert Lansing and Catherine Lansing, his wife, in the sum of $3,878.68, is hereby affirmed.

Judge DiSalle did not participate in the decision in this case.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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