Doctrine of Necessaries

My son has a medical bill on his credit report from a procedure that occurred when he was 13. He is 18 now. Is this allowed?

When my son was 13 years old I took him to a doctor. The bill was never paid now he is 18 years old and they have put the bill on his credit report. Is this allowed since he was 13 at the time? I reside in Indiana.

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Highlights


  • The Doctrine of Necessaries defined.
  • Minors and their liability for medical debt.
  • This rule is also called the 'Doctrine of Necessities'

The root of your issue can be found in English common law in something called the “doctrine of necessaries,” which is also called the “doctrine of necessities.”

Spouses and Medical Debt

You mentioned you reside in Indiana. The Indiana doctrine of necessaries is typical among the states still following this rule. Under Indiana law, each spouse is primarily liable for his or her independent debts. Typically, a creditor may look to a non-contracting spouse for satisfaction of the debts of the other only if the non-contracting spouse has otherwise agreed to contractual liability or can be said to have authorized the debt by implication under the laws of agency. When, however, there is a shortfall between a dependent spouse’s necessary expenses and separate funds, the law will impose limited secondary liability upon the financially superior spouse.

As mentioned, some states still have a doctrine of necessaries rule for spouses, including California, and other states abolished the rule. This law review article discusses how some states have decided to handle the doctrine of necessaries.

Minors and Medical Debt

The doctrine of necessaries / doctrine of necessities also applies to the parent-minor child relationship. In Indiana, as in most states, parents are responsible for the well-being of their minor children. It is considered fundamental for a parent to provide and pay for medical care for a minor child, even if the parent has a religious objection to the procedure.

You may argue the child had no liability to pay for the procedure because a contract with a minor can be voidable. As a matter of public policy, most US jurisdictions do not allow courts to enforce contracts on minors, with some exceptions. This means that if Indiana follows the customary rule, the service provider in question files a lawsuit in an attempt to obtain a judgment against your son, your son appears at the hearing to offer a defense, and raises the defense of age, the court may dismiss the case if it follows the rule disallowing judgments against minors.

However, some states provide exceptions to this rule for debts incurred for necessities, such as non-elective medical treatment. Some states require that the provider attempt to collect from the minor’s parents prior to turning to the minor for payment, as parents are generally liable for any necessary medical treatment provided to their minor children. The laws regarding debts created by minors vary significantly from state to state. I am unable to determine if Indiana requires minors to assume liability for medical debt. I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state to discuss your child’s rights and obligations regarding the medical debt.

A Minor Child and Credit Report

There is no law I am aware of prohibiting creditors from reporting debts of minors to credit reporting agencies, or for agencies to report the credit history of a minor. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law, requires consumer credit reporting companies to report accurate information.

Consult with an Indiana attorney regarding your child’s liability for the debt. My guess — note that word choice — is the medical service provider could not locate a guarantor form with the name and contact information for you and your child’s other parent. Instead of researching this matter by calling you or hiring a skip tracer, it reported the debt on your son’s credit report in the hopes your child would resolve the debt once it was discovered on the report.

The debt will disappear from the credit report up to 7½ years after the date of first delinquency. In other words, the debt will no longer appear on your son’s credit report at age 22 or before.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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