Department of Health Services v. Fontes

Citation169 Cal.App.3d 301,215 Cal.Rptr. 14
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date13 May 1985
Parties, Medicare & Medicaid Guide P 34,844 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Edward J. FONTES, as Executor, etc., Defendant and Appellant. A028019.

Machado & Machado, Robert A. Machado, San Jose, for defendant and appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp, State Atty. Gen., Charlton G. Holland, Catherine M. Van Aken, Dep. Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

SCOTT, Associate Justice.

The sole question in this appeal is whether Welfare and Institutions Code section 14009.5 1 authorizes respondent Department of Health Services to claim reimbursement for Medi-Cal benefits from the estate of a Medi-Cal recipient, when the recipient died after the effective date of the statute, but the benefits were received before the effective date of the statute.

The facts here are not in dispute, Evelyn Fontes received $20,501.01 in Medi-Cal benefits from May 1, 1977, to June 28, 1981, and $3,402.02 in Medi-Cal benefits from June 28, 1981, until her death on November 16, 1981. Then respondent filed a creditor's claim against the Fontes estate for $23,903.03, the total amount of Medi-Cal benefits received by the decedent. This claim was rejected by appellant executor of the estate and the present action was filed by respondent to enforce that claim. The trial court granted summary judgment in respondent's favor; this appeal followed.

Section 14009.5 was enacted effective June 28, 1981. (Stats.1981, ch. 102, § 101, p. 738; amended by Stats.1981, ch. 1163, § 3, pp. 4654-4655, eff. Oct. 2, 1981.) It created a right in respondent to claim against the estates of Medi-Cal recipients an amount equal to payments for health care services received, except where the recipient was under age 65 when services were received or where there is a surviving spouse or a blind, disabled, or minor surviving child.

Respondent claims that all Medi-Cal benefits, whenever received, are subject to this legislation where the recipient dies, and the estate comes into existence, after the effective date of the statute. Appellant contends that only Medi-Cal benefits received after the effective date of the statute are subject to the claim for reimbursement.

"The construction of a statute by the officials charged with its administration must be given great weight." (Worthington v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 384, 389, 134 Cal.Rptr. 507.) But unless the Legislature has clearly expressed an intention that a statute be applied retroactively, that statute must be given prospective application only. (DiGenova v. State Board of Education (1962) 57 Cal.2d 167, 172-174, 18 Cal.Rptr. 369, 367 P.2d 865.) In this instance, the Legislature did not express any intention to make this statute retroactive. Therefore, the question before us is whether application of section 14009.5 to benefits received before the effective date of the statute, claimed from an estate which arose after the effective date of the statute, constitutes an unauthorized retroactive application.

A statute is not retroactive in its application merely because it draws upon antecedent facts for its operation. (Burks v. Poppy Construction Co. (1962) 57 Cal.2d 463, 474, 20 Cal.Rptr. 609, 370 P.2d 313; Gordon H. Ball, Inc. v. State of California ex rel. Dept. Pub. Wks. (1972) 26 Cal.App.3d 162, 168, 102 Cal.Rptr. 637.) The "ultimate test" is whether the statute as applied changes the legal effect of past transactions. (Coast Bank v. Holmes (1971) 19 Cal.App.3d 581, 595, 97 Cal.Rptr. 30; Aetna Cas. & Surety Co. v. Ind. Acc. Com. (1947) 30 Cal.2d 388, 394, 182 P.2d 159.) Application of a statute which changes existing rights would be retroactive because the legal effects of past events would be changed. (Aetna Cas. & Surety Co., supra, at p. 394, 182 P.2d 159; Perry v. Heavenly Valley (1985) 163 Cal.App.3d 495, 503-504, 209 Cal.Rptr. 771.) But a statute's application which merely affects procedures to be followed in the future, is prospective because it does not deprive a person of any right which he or she had prior to the effective date of the statute. (Perry, supra, at p. 504, 209 Cal.Rptr. 771; Hogan v. Ingold (1952) 38 Cal.2d 802, 812, 243 P.2d 1.)

In this case, appellant concedes that section 14009.5 did not impose any liability on the Medi-Cal recipient, but contends that it unconstitutionally...

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10 cases
  • Paleski v. State Department of Health Services, B186206.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 7 November 2006
    ...(See Kizer v. Hanna (1989) 48 Cal.3d 1, 7, 255 Cal.Rptr. 412, 767 P.2d 679; accord, Department of Health Services v. Fontes (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 301, 304, 215 Cal.Rptr. 14.) The criteria were published in provider manuals in late 2002 and June 2003. In fact, the applicable criteria were pu......
  • Kizer v. Hanna, S005834
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 21 February 1989 resolve a conflict in the Courts of Appeal. The issue presented here was addressed in Department of Health Services v. Fontes (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 301, 215 Cal.Rptr. 14 and Estate of Messner (1987) 190 Cal.App.3d 818, 235 Cal.Rptr. 495. Both cases agreed that section 14009.5 applies pro......
  • Shaw Family Archives Ltd. v. Cmg Worldwide, Inc., No. 05 CIV. 3939(CM).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 7 May 2007
    ...cause. "Testamentary disposition ... is controlled by the law in effect as of the date of death." Dep't of Health Services v. Fontes, 169 Cal.App.3d 301, 305, 215 Cal.Rptr. 14 (1985)(emphasis added); In re Smith's Estate, 182 Misc. 711, 48 N.Y.S.2d 631 (N.Y.Sur.1944). There is no question —......
  • Kizer v. Hanna, B
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 27 April 1988
    ...the effective date of the statute, June 28, 1981. The identical issue was decided in Department of Health Services v. Fontes (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 301, 215 Cal.Rptr. 14 and Estate of Messner (1987) 190 Cal.App.3d 818, 235 Cal.Rptr. 495.) Both cases hold that the statute is to be given prosp......
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