John Pittas, 47, is fighting a Pennsylvania court's order to pay his mother's $93,000 nursing home stay under a "filial support law" that is in effect in 29 states.
Pennsylvania's statute makes certain family members liable to "care for and maintain or financially assist" certain "indigent" members of the family, a law which some legal experts call "disturbing."
Pittas' mother, Maryann, now 66, was admitted for six months to Liberty Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, Pa., in September 2007 after breaking two legs in a car accident. In March 2008, Pittas' mother, who was born in the U.S., relocated to Greece, where her two other children live.
As the only remaining family member left in the U.S., Pittas was left to foot the $92,943.41 bill after his mother's Medicaid application was not approved in time. The Health Care & Retirement Corp. of America, which owns Liberty Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, sued Pittas in May 2008 for the money and a trial court sided with the nursing home in 2011.
Pittas appealed but the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a verdict earlier this month in favor of the nursing home again.
The restaurant owner said he was "in shock" and "devastated" at the ruling and filed to re-argue his case with the Superior Court on Monday.
"I have a business and family. My wife was pregnant with the second child at the time," Pittas said. "The economy is not what it used to be. I'm very worried about this and stressed."
Pittas said he is keeping his elderly mother, who is recovering from a stroke, and father, 78, both in Greece, out of the legal dispute. His mother had a monthly income of $1,000 from Social Security and her husband's Veteran's Administration benefit. The nursing home argued in court that her income was not enough to provide for the bill and the court established her "indigent" status.
Liberty Nursing and Rehab Center said in a statement: "We do expect to receive payment for services provided. We work with patients and families to help them understand their options and responsibilities. We work with the patient and family on payment options including filing for Medicaid if necessary."
Liberty spokeswoman Julie Beckert said she could not comment about the appeal filed on Monday because it is pending litigation.
According to the statement, the company does not "ask family members to use their own personal funds to pay for their loved ones' care."
"However, family members that are responsible parties for financial issues are responsible to gather needed documents per state guidelines for their loved ones care. We, as well as the state, rely on those family members to provide this information for timely and accurate filing."