An Irishman living in New Hampshire faces losing his house due to a law that has left him liable for his deceased ex-wife’s medical bills.
Tony Hayes, 61, originally from Stillorgan, Co. Dublin, has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center (SNHMC) since 2006.
The health care facility is suing Hayes for over $85,000 in medical bills incurred by his late ex-wife, Karen, who died in August 2007 after a long battle with alcohol addiction.
The couple divorced in January 2007, after 30 years of marriage. They had two sons together, Connor, 23, and Jack, 16.
The Dubliner emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and is currently working as a delivery man, bringing chemotherapy drugs to cancer patients in their homes. Surviving on a modest income, Hayes admits it is not a lucrative salary.
“It’s enough to buy one pizza every hour,” he told the Irish Voice.
Increasing health care costs means that Hayes has not been able to afford insurance cover for his family for the past decade -- “2002 was the last time I had insurance,” he said.
In the latest blow to the father of two, he was notified on Christmas Eve that one of his two properties is to be auctioned to help cover the costs of the outstanding medical bills.
SNHMC got a writ of execution to sell Hayes’s rental property. Hayes got a court order to block the sale but that decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court in November.
“I will be left with nothing to give to my kids,” a concerned Hayes told the Irish Voice. “I don’t believe I owe them (SNHMC) a button.”
Throughout 2006, Karen Hayes was admitted on four occasions to SNHMC for emergency services related to alcoholism. In November 2006, SNHMC filed a suit against the Hayes family for Karen’s unpaid medical bills.
“She would ring up somebody looking for help and the police, fire, or ambulance would show up at my house. It was a nightmare for the kids,” Hayes said.
“She was coming and going as you pleased. I tried to get her help, she tried all kinds of places but nobody could help her,” he added.
In March 2007, a court ruled that Hayes was also liable for the bills amounting to $85,238.88, under the “doctrine of necessaries,” the English common law which imposed liability on husbands for "essential goods and services provided to (their wives or children) by third parties."
“I made the mistake of giving them $60,000 which I have saved for Conor’s education. I was paying $200 a month, trying to get them off her back. Then they started up a new suit,” he told the Irish Voice.
Following the couple’s divorce in January 2007, court documents show that Hayes got ownership of the two properties and that “Karen was responsible for paying the debt to SNHMC as well as any other medical debts or bills.”
As part of the divorce settlement she received one car “valued at $1,200, and her bank account with a balance of $0.00.”
Karen passed away on August 25, 2007, a mere seven months after the couple’s divorce was finalized, leaving Hayes libel for the medical expenses.
Now Welts, White & Fontaine, P.C., who represent SNHMC have notified Hayes that his rental property is to be auctioned. A date for the auction has yet to be set.
A spokesman Welts, White & Fontaine, P.C., declined to comment on the case.