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Is the state of TN a Community Property state? Am I responsible for my husband's medical bills?

Hendersonville, TN |

I have been subpena to go to court and I do not think I am legally bound to his bills.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. I am not admitted in Tennessee, but there are only 9 states which are community property states and Tennessee is not one of them (the states are California, Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Nevada, Washington and New Mexico).

    There are other doctrines (like the doctrine of necessaries) under which a spouse can be held liable. Under the doctrine of necessaries, a spouse can be held liable for the other spouse's medical debts.

    I don't understand what you mean by "subpoenaed" to court. A subpoena is usually something that is sent to witnesses to secure their attendance at trial or to produce documents. If you have been summoned as a witness, that is different. Then you need to obey the subpoena.

    A lawsuit is commenced by the filing of a summons and complaint. Were you sued as a named defendant? If so, then you need to seek out an attorney immediately and pay for advice as to whether you could be held liable for your husband's medical bills. If the answer is that you are liable, then your remedy will be to resolve the debt in some way (via bankruptcy, paying or settling). However, you will have to discuss with the attorney as to whether any defenses exist (statute of limitations or any other defenses).


  2. Tennessee is NOT a community property state. However, this probably has little to do with whether you are responsible for your husband's medical bills.

    In many instances a doctor or hospital will ask that admission documents be signed before they will admit a patient. This isn't a legal requirement, but the hospitals know where their bread is buttered and want to make sure they have as much opportunity as possible to collect.

    These Admission Agreements usually include a promise to pay. If you signed one of those agreements, you will likely be on the hook.

    There is another theory that health care benefits both parties in a marriage and you have a common law duty to support your spouse. This argument isn't used much, but it's a possibility.

    If you have been summoned to General Sessions Court, talk with a lawyer right away. If the suit was based upon a document called a "Sworn Account" you must file a document known as a "Sworn Denial", otherwise judgment will go down against you. A lawyer will know how to prepare one of these documents. Don't try it yourself.

    Good luck.

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  3. You should hire local counsel.

    If you find this answer helpful, please let other readers know by marking the answer as "helpful". No discussion on this board is intended to replace the advice or consultation when all facts are disclosed and pleadings reviewed. No attorney client relationship is established by initiating this discussion with the attorney. For further discussion, I can be contacted by phone at 615-452-4423 or my email at Patti@pattibgarner.com. Most consultations are free. My office is located in Gallatin, TN and I am licensed to practice in the state of Tennessee.