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Bill to amend North Dakota's filial statute sent to Burgum

BISMARCK - Shortly after Durant "Phil" Shook died, his four children got a letter in the mail notifying them a nursing home was suing them for more than $43,000 in unpaid bills related to their father's stay at the facility.

His children, Becky Pedersen, Margaret Rennecke and Joseph Shook, had no idea of the existence of an antiquated law in North Dakota that allows nursing homes to sue children for their parents' unpaid nursing home bills.

As a result of the litigation, his children reached out to their local legislators to try to get the law changed.

Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, introduced Senate Bill 2225, which passed unanimously in the Senate last month. On Wednesday, the measure passed without opposition in the House and now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum for his signature.

The bill amends the state's filial support law, which requires children to support their indigent parents.

During the House floor session on Wednesday, Rep. Karen Rohr, R-Mandan, said the state's filial law "could be used to make a child of any age responsible for any debt of their parents."

SB2225 "corrects the unfairness," while allowing creditors to go after people who act in "bad faith" by misappropriating, misusing or diverting assets to prevent or avoid payment for health services, Rohr said.

In an email on Wednesday, Becky Pedersen said she was happy to see the bill cleared the Legislature and believes it will make "a huge difference" in the lives of current and future North Dakota citizens.

The bill received no opposing testimony and was supported by the North Dakota Long Term Care Association and nursing home administrators in the state.