Help!! I Got Sued For My Spouse's Medical Debt! Can They Do That?

26 Oct Help!! I Got Sued For My Spouse's Medical Debt! Can They Do That?

Oftentimes, I have folks coming in my office after having been sued for an overdue medical bill, either their own or one that belongs to their spouse.    The medical provider or debt collector sues the other spouse under the legal theory called “necessaries” — an hold-over from the days when women didn’t work.   Husbands were ordered to pay their wives’ bills when the bills were for family, household, or medical expenses (as the wife didn’t have any money of her own…..).   Since the implementation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, there should be no need for such a doctrine to still be in place.   What should  you do if you have been sued?

1.  Dispute that you owe the debt.   You should especially dispute the debt if you are not living with the treated spouse. 

2.  If you are worried about being liable on a spouse’s medical bill, do not sign the contract for medical services (or sign the spouse into the hospital).

If you do nothing, a default judgment will be taken against you.   There may be other available defenses in a medical debt lawsuit, such as whether the price of the service is reasonable, whether the charge is “customary”, whether you were given notice of the charges before the services were provided.   See a debt defense attorney who is experienced with how your state court judges’ view the necessaries doctrine and who can raise those defenses on  your behalf.

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I'm a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon, working with people in Klamath; Lake; Jackson; Josephine; Curry; and Deschutes County. I speak regularly on bankruptcy and consumer protection issues nationwide.
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