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In re Rinehart

Decided: November 22, 1961.

IN THE MATTER OF LYDIA RUTH RINEHART, A MENTAL INCOMPETENT. THE PLAINFIELD TRUST STATE NATIONAL BANK, GUARDIAN OF LYDIA RUTH RINEHART, A MENTAL INCOMPETENT, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HARRY H. RINEHART, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Foley and Fulop. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.

Goldmann

[70 NJSuper Page 431] Defendant husband appeals from a Chancery Division judgment in favor of plaintiff bank, guardian of his mentally incompetent wife, now and for sometime past a patient at the N.J. State Hospital at Marlboro, determining that (1) certain U.S. savings bonds were jointly owned by defendant and his wife, and (2) defendant is not entitled to reimbursement from her estate for monies he paid the State of New Jersey or the County of Union for her maintenance at Marlboro, and that "the primary liability and obligation for such support is upon the defendant." We are in agreement with the determination of the Chancery Division judge as to the ownership of the bonds, for the reasons expressed in his oral opinion delivered at the close of the testimony. We are also in accord with his determination that defendant is not entitled to reimbursement from his wife's estate for monies he paid for her maintenance at the Marlboro institution, for essentially the reasons given by him in In re Rinehart , 66 N.J. Super. 90 (Ch. Div. 1961).

Defendant criticizes the trial court's reliance on In re Hannon , 52 Pa. Dist. & Co. R. 160 (C.P. 1944), dealing with the then Pennsylvania statute which provided that:

"The husband, wife, father, mother, child, or children of any person who is an inmate of any asylum, hospital, home, or other institution * * * who is legally able so to do, shall be liable to pay for the maintenance of any such person, as hereinafter provided."

The court pointed out that

"* * * The manifest purpose of this act is to facilitate the collection of bills for maintaining inmates in State institutions by enabling the Commonwealth to proceed directly against the inmate's estate, in the first instance. It enlarges the sources from which the Commonwealth can get satisfaction of its bill, but does not attempt to alter the existing liability of others therefor. * * * As between the husband and wife, however, the primary liability of support remains, as always, upon the husband. That liability arises out of the marriage relation, and is among the wife's most important and valuable rights springing from the marriage contract. * * *" (at pages 164-5)

Defendant attempts to minimize the relevancy of this decision by referring to a statute subsequently enacted in 1951, 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. , ยง 1361, which provides, in part:

"Except as otherwise specifically provided in this act, liability for all costs of care of any patient in any State institution is hereby imposed, in the following order, against --

(1) The patient's real and personal property;

(2) The persons liable for the patient's support;

(3) The Commonwealth or in the case of an inebriate, the county or institution district in which he resides."

Defendant contends that this new statute overruled Hannon. He has overlooked Liberty Bank & Trust Co. v. Commonwealth , 85 Pa. Dist. & Co. R. 279 (C.P. 1952). The court in that case dealt with the question of whether the new statute subordinated the husband's liability for his incompetent wife's support to the exhaustion ...


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