The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the Pennsylvania residential facility that was denied parental filial support payments for its care of a New Jersey adult with severe disabilities. Melmark v. Schutt (Pa., No. 580 MAL 2017, Dec. 26, 2017).
As we have previously reported, Melmark, Inc., a Pennsylvania residential care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities, sought payment for the care it provided to indigent New Jersey resident Alexander Schutt (Alex) for more than 13 months. Alex, an adult born in 1986, is severely autistic and requires many specialized services for his substantial intellectual and physical disabilities.
The New Jersey Department of Developmental Disabilities (NJDDD) paid Alex’s fees at Melmark for nearly 11 years, then stopped paying on March 31, 2012, in a dispute over Melmark’s rates. Alex continued to live at Melmark until Melmark transferred him to a New Jersey facility on May 15, 2013. By then, Melmark had provided Alex with unpaid-for services valued at $205,236.38. Melmark filed suit in Pennsylvania against Alex and his parents, both New Jersey residents, as his legal guardians and individually, seeking payment of the outstanding balance. Melmark argued that Pennsylvania had a greater interest in applying its filial support law because it allows Pennsylvania facilities that care for indigent individuals to be paid by responsible family members.
The trial court and the intermediate appeals court found for Melmark against Alex but denied Melmark’s claims as to Mr. and Mrs. Schutt, individually. Both courts applied a choice of law analysis. They found that New Jersey had the greatest interest in having its law applied and ruled that its filial support law protected Mr. and Mrs. Schutt from liability for fees incurred by Alex at Melmark. The appeals court also affirmed the trial court’s finding that Mr. and Mrs. Schutt were not unjustly enriched by Melmark’s services for Alex and they owed Melmark nothing pursuant to its claim of quantum meruit. Melmark appealed.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court grants Melmark’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal. The court will hear argument on three issues: whether the appeals court erred as a matter of law in applying New Jersey’s filial support statute where there is no conflict with the Pennsylvania statute; whether the court erred in finding that New Jersey has a greater interest in applying its filial support statute; and whether relief on the claims for quantum meruit and unjust enrichment were properly denied.