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An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.
NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS
FILED: 4 December 2007
THE WESLEY LONG NURSING
CENTER, INC. D/B/A The MOSES
CONE EXTENDED CARE CENTER,
v. Guilford County
No. 06 CVD 3889
Appeal by defendant Estell Harper from order entered 24
October 2006 by Judge Susan E. Bray in District Court, Guilford
County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 30 August 2007.
Michael T. Marshall, P.A., by Michael T. Marshall, for
Barbara Gore Washington for defendant-appellant.
Plaintiff sued defendant Estell Harper to recover the costs of
providing necessary medical services to defendant's wife. On or
about 15 August 2006 plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment
which was granted on 24 October 2006 in favor of plaintiff. The
dispositive question before this Court is whether the trial court
erred in granting summary judgment for plaintiff based upon the
necessaries doctrine. For the following reasons, we affirm.
Plaintiff provided necessary nursing services, medical
services, and medical supplies to Carrie W. Harper (decedent)
from approximately 24 January 2005 until 30 November 2005.Defendant was decedent's spouse at the time plaintiff provided
decedent with medical care.
On or about 20 February 2006, plaintiff filed a complaint to
recover $34,730.87, the alleged amount of decedent's medical
expenses, with interest, from defendant. Defendant filed an
unverified answer, admitting that plaintiff had provided necessary
medical services and supplies to decedent and that decedent was his
spouse. Defendant's answer denied the amount of the debt and his
responsibility for it and requested verification of the account
balance. On or about 15 August 2006 plaintiff filed a motion for
summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the North Carolina Rules of
Civil Procedure, accompanied by a verified affidavit of statement
of account. Defendant filed an opposing affidavit which alleged
only that he did not owe the plaintiff any money, that he had not
been a patient at the plaintiff's facility, and that the estate of
the decedent is responsible for the payment of the debt. On 24
October 2006, Judge Susan E. Bray granted plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment. Defendant appeals.
II. Standard of Review
On appeal, our standard of review for an
order granting summary judgment is de novo
Summary judgment is only appropriate when
there is no genuine issue of material fact and
[any party] is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. In considering summary
judgment motions, we review the record in the
light most favorable to the nonmovant. The
entry of summary judgment presupposes that
there are no issues of material fact.
Winding Ridge Homeowners Ass'n v. Joffe, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___,
646 S.E.2d 801, 804 (2007) (internal citations and quotations
omitted); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 56.
Defendant argues the trial court erred in granting summary
judgment to plaintiff because defendant is not responsible for
decedent's medical bills because her estate is the responsible
party. We disagree.
A. Necessaries Doctrine
The necessaries doctrine is a recognition of a personal duty
of each spouse to support the other, a duty arising from the
marital relationship itself and carrying with it the corollary
right to support from the other spouse. N.C. Baptist Hosp. v.
Harris, 319 N.C. 347, 353, 354 S.E.2d 471, 474 (1987). It is well
settled that [the] 'doctrine of necessaries' applies to necessary
medical expenses. N.C. Baptist Hosp. at 349, 354 S.E.2d at 472.
In order to establish a prima facie case
against one spouse for the value of necessary
medical services provided to the other spouse,
the health-care provider must show that (1)
medical services were provided to the
receiving spouse, (2) the medical services
were necessary for the health and well-being
of the receiving spouse, (3) the person
against whom the action is brought was married
to the receiving spouse at the time the
medical services were provided, and (4)
payment for the necessaries has not been made.
Forsyth Mem'l Hosp. v. Chisholm, 342 N.C. 616, 619, 467 S.E.2d 88,
89-90 (1996) (internal citations omitted).
In Forsyth Mem'l Hosp., a wife, separated from her husband at
the time his medical services were rendered, was required to payhis medical bills pursuant to the necessaries doctrine. Forsyth
Mem'l Hosp., 342 N.C. 616, 467 S.E.2d 88. The North Carolina
Supreme Court held that once all of the requirements for a prima
facie case for the necessaries doctrine had been established a
spouse would be liable unless an exception applied. See id. at
619, 467 S.E.2d at 90.
In the present case, as in Forsyth Mem'l Hosp., it is
undisputed that the pleadings and affidavits of record establish
the applicability of the necessaries doctrine. Id. Defendant's
answer admits: (1) medical services were provided to his wife, (2)
the medical services provided to his wife were necessary, and (3)
Carrie W. Harper was his spouse at the time services were
rendered. See id. at 619, 467 S.E.2d at 89-90. Plaintiff's
accounting affidavit also establishes element (4) by presenting
evidence that payment for the necessaries has not been made. See
id. at 619, 467 S.E.2d at 90. In his opposing affidavit defendant
fails to raise any legal defense or exception to the necessaries
doctrine, but only claims he is not personally responsible for the
debt. Undoubtedly plaintiff has established a prima facie case
against defendant pursuant to the necessaries doctrine. See id. at
619, 467 S.E.2d at 89-90.
Defendant has also argued no exception to the necessaries
doctrine, but instead has claimed that he is not responsible for
his deceased wife's medical bills as her estate is the responsible
party. See id. at 619, 467 S.E.2d at 90. However, this argument
is contrary to the clearly established law of North Carolina on thenecessaries doctrine. See id. 342 N.C. 616, 467 S.E.2d 88; N.C.
Baptist Hosp., 319 N.C. 347, 354 S.E.2d 471. The necessaries
doctrine is a personal duty of each spouse to support the other,
a duty arising from the marital relationship. See N.C. Baptist
Hosp. at 353, 354 S.E.2d at 474.
B. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-19
Defendant argues that pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-19,
governing decedents' estates, his wife's estate is responsible for
the debt. See N.C. Gen. Stat § 28A-19 (2005). Defendant correctly
points out that pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-1 [u]pon the
death of any person, all demands whatsoever, and rights to
prosecute or defend any action or special proceeding, existing in
favor of or against such person . . . shall survive to and against
the personal representative or collector of his estate. N.C. Gen.
Stat § 28A-18-1 (2005). However, although the hospital may pursue
the wife's estate for payment of the debt, it is not required to do
so before filing a claim against defendant pursuant to the
necessaries doctrine. See id.; see also N.C. Baptist Hosp. at 353,
354 S.E.2d at 474. The necessaries doctrine makes the spouse
personally liable for the debt, not secondarily liable for the
debt. N. C. Baptist Hosp. at 353, 354 S.E.2d at 474.
Plaintiff has established a prima facie case for the
necessaries doctrine and plaintiff is entitled to file a claim
against defendant personally without first seeking recovery from
decedent's estate. See id.; Forsyth Mem'l Hosp. at 619, 467 S.E.2d
at 89-90; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-19. Based upon the pleadings andaffidavits, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Winding Ridge
Homeowners Ass'n at ___, 646 S.E.2d at 804; see also N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 56. This assignment of error is overruled.
IV. Failure to Find Facts
The defendant also assigns error to the trial court's failure
to make findings of fact. However, it is not a part of the
function of the court on a motion for summary judgment to make
findings of fact and conclusions of law. . . . [T]he enumeration of
findings of fact . . . is technically unnecessary and generally
inadvisable in summary judgment cases. Mercier v. Daniels
N.C. App. 588, 590, 533 S.E.2d 877, 879 (2000) (internal citations
and internal quotations omitted). We conclude that the trial court
properly refrained from making findings of fact upon plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment. See id.
This assignment of error is
For the reasons stated above, we affirm the trial court's
order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff because
plaintiff is personally liable for decedent's medical bills
pursuant to the necessaries doctrine.
Judges ELMORE and STEELMAN concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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