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Boe v. Dep't of Human Services

March 25, 2004

HAROLD G. BOE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part, Union County, L-5992-00.

Before Judges Kestin, Axelrad and Winkelstein.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kestin, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: October 1, 2003

Plaintiff, Harold G. Boe, filed a complaint seeking a judgment declaring: 1) that an institutional lien on a parcel of real property had been extinguished upon the death of Mary Boe (decedent), plaintiff's mother; and 2) that title in the premises was vested in plaintiff entirely free of defendant's institutional lien by reason of plaintiff's joint ownership of the parcel with the right of survivorship. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court dismissed the complaint, declared the lien to be valid, and held that the estate of the decedent was liable for the costs of the care and maintenance furnished her by a State institution. We affirm.

Before May 16, 1996, Mary Boe was the sole owner of the residential property at issue. On that date, she executed a deed transferring title in the property to herself and plaintiff "as joint tenants with rights of survivorship." Also on that date, decedent and plaintiff executed a mortgage on the property securing a $10,808 loan.

On September 20, 1996, the trial court entered a"temporary order for involuntary commitment," on the basis of which decedent became a patient at the Senator Garrett W. Hagedorn Gero-Psychiatric Hospital (the hospital), a State institution, on October 1, 1996. She was seventy-six years of age at the time. Over the course of the next ten-and-a-half months, between October 18, 1996 and August 15, 1997, five orders were entered continuing the placement.

On May 19, 1997, the hospital filed a lien claim, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.1, for the costs attributable to the care and maintenance furnished to decedent. The amount of the delinquent maintenance stated in the lien as of April 30, 1997 was $71,160.24. The specified rate of maintenance was $2,063.04 per week. By the time of decedent's discharge from the hospital on August 19, 1997, the amount of the lien was calculated at $82,048.23.

A medical summary stated decedent's discharge diagnoses to be:

Dementia with delusions.

Mild hypercholesterolemia which we did not want to intervene and do anything considering her age.

A psychiatric discharge summary recited her discharge diagnoses as follows:

Axis I: Dementia of the Alzheimer's type with delusions and behaviorial disturbances

Axis II: No diagnosis

Axis III: Hypercholesterolemia

Axis IV: No. 4

Axis V: GAF:15-20

The reports characterized decedent as"non-ambulatory" and requiring"total nursing care."

Decedent died on March 6, 2000. She was, at the time, a resident of the Perth Amboy Nursing Home (nursing home).

On July 13, 1999, counsel, on plaintiff's behalf, had sent a letter to the Bureau of Financial Standards and Procedures noting that"[a] recent title search indicates that there is an institutional lien filed against [decedent] as a result of her confinement at the [hospital]." The letter described decedent's limited resources:"her one-half interest in her home.... [and h]er only source of income [from] Social Security ($900 a month) and a pension from her deceased husband ($417.95 a month)." Counsel enclosed a copy of the May 16, 1996 deed, noting decedent's then current residence in the nursing home and plaintiff's residence in the property. The letter also referred to an application then pending in the Superior Court

to appoint Harold Boe as guardian over the person and financial affairs of his mother, Mary Boe. As neither Mary Boe or her son, Harold, have any assets to speak of, they intend to sell the house and for the most ...


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