State ex rel. Mental Health Com'r v. Estate of Lotts

Decision Date13 August 1975
Docket NumberNo. 2--1173A254,2--1173A254
Citation332 N.E.2d 234,165 Ind.App. 347
PartiesSTATE of Indiana on the relation of the MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSIONER, William Ellsworth Murray, M.D., Appellant, v. The ESTATE of Clarence O. LOTTS, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court
Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., A. Frank Gleaves, III, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellant

George L. Hanna, Hanna & Gerde, Lafayette, for appellee.



The State of Indiana, on the relation of the Mental Health Commissioner, Wiliam Ellsworth Murray, M.D. (the State) appeals from a trial court judgment absolving Defendant-Appellee, Estate of Clarence O. Lotts (Lotts) from liability for maintenance of Lotts' adult daughter at Logansport State Hospital, the State claiming Lotts was liable under Ind.Ann.Stat. § 22--401 et seq. (the Former Responsible Relative Statutes), which was amended in part and specifically repealed in part by Sections 1 and 3 of Acts 1969, ch. 362 (now codified under IC 1971, 16--14--18--1 et seq. and collectively referred to as the New Responsible Relative Statutes).

We reverse and remand.


The undisputed facts are:

On June 24, 1971, the State filed a claim in Lotts' Estate in Tippecanoe Circuit Court in Lafayette, Indiana for services rendered to his adult daughter by Logansport State Hospital.

The parties then stipulated to certain facts:


'It is stipulated and agreed by the parties that Lola Muehler Brockman is the daughter of Clarence O. Lotts, deceased, and that $14,047.75 is the accurate amount for services rendered by Lola Muehler Brockman; itemized account 1 of admission dates and costs are attached to the claim; Lola Muehler Brockman was born October 22, 1923 and was first 'The question remaining to be decided is the liability of the estate of Clarence O. Lotts for the maintenance of Lola Muehler Brockman . . ..'

admitted to Logansport State Hospital January 21, 1952 at the age of twenty-nine (29).

It is not disputed that the State's claim is for care of Lotts' daughter (Brockman) as an adult and that its claim for care terminated prior to the effective date of the New Responsible Relative Statutes, i.e., August 18, 1969.

After reviewing briefs submitted by the parties, the trial court entered judgment on November 15, 1972, in favor of the Estate of Lotts:

'This matter was submitted upon a claim of the State of Indiana against the estate of Clarence O. Lotts for care and maintenance of Lola Muehler Brockman, adult daughter of decedent, in Logansport State Hospital from January 21, 1952 to August 17, 1969. The said daughter was twenty-nine (29) years of age at the time of commitment. The claim was filed June 24, 1971.

'The case was submitted upon a stipulation of fact, and extensive briefs were filed. The basic question presented is whether the 1969 repeal of the Responsible Relative Statute, as to liability of parents, operated to release or extinguish prior statutory liability in this regard, or whether such liability was preserved by Burns 1--307.

'Upon reviewing numerous authorities cited, the Court concludes that notwithstanding Burns 1--307, liability did not survive the statutory repeal. Accordingly, the Court now finds against Claimant in its claim, and in favor of the Defendant-Estate.

'IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Claimant take nothing by its claim and that the Defendant-Estate have judgment thereon.'

The reference in the judgment to Burns 1--307 is to what is hereinafter set out and referred to as the Repealer Statute.

It is this judgment from which the State appeals.


Should the New Responsible Relative Statutes be given retroactive effect thereby extinguishing any prior existing liability of Lotts under the former Responsible Relative Statutes?

The State contends that construction of IC 1971, 1--1--5--1, Ind.Ann.Stat. § 1--307 (Burns Code Ed.) (the Repealer Statute), requires the New Responsible Relative Statutes to be construed prospectively only and therefore any liability existing prior to the effective date of the New Responsible Relative Statutes is not extinguished.

The major thrust of Lotts' reply is that the Repealer Statute does not prevail if, as here, the legislature clearly intended retroactive operation of the statute, i.e., the New Responsible Relative Statute displays an intent that it have retroactive effect and so destroys any existing liability Lotts might have had prior to the effective date of the New Responsible Relative Statutes in 1969.


CONCLUSION--It is our opinion that the New Responsible Relative Statutes should not be given retroactive effect so as to extinguish any existing liability of Lotts under the Former Responsible Relative Statutes.

There would appear to be no doubt that on the face of the Former Responsible Relative Statutes Lotts would be liable for the care of his adult daughter in Logansport State Hospital from 1952 to August 17, 1969 . . . and the parties do not seem to disagree on this point. (Assuming Lotts was otherwise liable as provided by statute in terms of Notice, Financial Qualification, etc. as hereinafter discussed.) Such liability would be in keeping with Ind.Ann.Stat. § 22--401(d) which is a key section of the Former Responsible Relative Statutes defining who is responsible for the care of patients in State hospitals for the mentally ill:

'The term 'family' shall mean husband, wife, adult children or parents of any patient. (Acts 1935, ch. 132, § 1, p. 476; 1943, ch. 44, § 1, p. 100; 1951, ch. 253, § 2, p. 716; 1953, ch. 130, § 1, p. 443.)'

(hereinafter referred to as 22--401.)

A companion section of the Former Responsible Relative Statutes pertinent to the liability of a mental patient's family or relatives is Ind.Ann.Stat. § 22--409(5), which reads:

'A 'responsible relative' means the husband or wife, or the parent of any patient in any psychiatric hospital, and shall include the adult child of any such patient, which adult child is legally responsible for the care and maintenance of such patient. (Acts 1955, ch. 339, § 1, p. 1068.)' (Emphasis supplied.)

(hereinafter referred to as 22--409.)

So prior to 1969, these two sections, 22--401 and 22--409, were the pertinent statutes defining liability of those related to patients in Indiana mental hospitals.

Then in 1969 the legislature adopted a new policy relieving parents of the burden of liability for maintenance of an adult (over 18) child. This policy took the form of what we have termed the New Responsible Relative Statutes which specifically repealed 22--401 and amended 22--409 to eliminate the liability of parents for children over the age of 18 years. The Acts of 1969, ch. 362, §§ 1 and 3, accomplished this dual purpose by providing:

'SECTION 1. Acts 1955, ch. 339, s. 1, is amended to read as follows: Sec. 1. The following words and phrases as used in this act, unless a different meaning is plainly required by context, shall have the following meanings:'

'(5) A 'responsible relative' means, and includes the parents of patients, husband or wife of the patient and a legal guardian of the patient in his representative capacity but shall not mean the children of patients or the parents of patients over the age of eighteen (18) years of age who have been in a psychiatric hospital for a continuous period of twelve (12) months or longer.'

'Sec. 3. Chapter 132 of the Acts of 1935 is hereby specifically repealed.'

(the New Responsible Relative Statutes.)

Observe that neither Section 1 nor Section 3 contain any language indicative of an intent that this amendatory act have retroactive effect. Disregarding the twelve month proviso which has no bearing on this case, the expressed unambiguous intent is that no family member or relative be liable thereafter for an adult child . . . and no more.

Ordinarily an amendatory act is to be construed prospectively. Slater v. Stoffel (1966), 140 Ind.App. 131, 138, 221 N.E.2d 688; Cummins v. Pence (1910), 174 Ind. 115, 124, 91 N.E. 529; 1A Sutherland, Statutory Construction, 22.36.

As stated in Slater, the rule is:

'In the absence of express language to the contrary an amendatory act ordinarily is construed as prospective and not retroactive.'

140 Ind.App. at 138, 221 N.E.2d at 693.

Furthermore, it has been held that prospective operation is particularly appropriate if vested rights and obligations are effected by the amendatory act. Niklaus v. Conkling (1888),118 Ind. 289, 20 N.E. 797; Hiatt v. Howard (1937), 104 Ind.App. 167, 8 N.E.2d 136; Herrick v. Sayler (1957), 245 F.2d 171 (7th Cir.).

Consequently, we can see no basis for giving retroactive effect to these 1969 changes so as to obliterate existing 'rights' or 'obligations'.

There is another reason for concluding that pre-1969 parental liability was not extinguished by the 1969 changes.

An amendatory act which changes prior law must by necessary implication repeal the prior law insofar as they are in conflict. See, Cleveland v. Blind (1914), 182 Ind. 398, 105 N.E. 483; Longlois v. Longlois (1874), 48 Ind. 60; In re Marshall (1947), 117 Ind.App. 203, 70 N.E.2d 772; State v. Doversberger (1972), Ind.App., 288 N.E.2d 585; 1A Sutherland, Statutory Construction, § 22.22.

So the amendatory act (Sections 1 and 3 of the New Responsible Relative Statutes) repealed 22--409 by implication as to liability for adult children and specifically repealed 22--401. And the effect of that repeal is covered by another Indiana statute, known herein as the Repealer Statute, referred to by the trial court in its judgment. The effect of a repeal is spelled out:

'1--1--5--1 (1--307). Effect of repeal--Repealed act not revived--Saving provision.--Whenever an act is repealed, which repealed a former act, such act shall not thereby be revived, unless it shall be so expressly provided. And the repeal of any statute shall not have the effect to release or extinguish any penalty, forfeiture or...

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