The doctrine of necessaries arose from the common law duty of the husband to provide for the necessary expenses of his wife and child.[FN1] Under the necessaries doctrine, a spouse is liable for necessary expenses incurred by the other spouse,[FN2] even where the spouse from whom payment is sought did not expressly undertake to pay the expenses.[FN3] The doctrine is now applied equally to both husband and wife.[FN4]
What is a Necessary?
"Necessaries" are those things which are essential to one spouse's health and comfort according to the rank and fortune of the other spouse.[FN5] In order to establish a prima facie case against one spouse for the value of necessary medical services provided to the other spouse, the health-care provider must show that: (1) medical services were provided to the receiving spouse; (2) the medical services were necessary for the health and well-being of the receiving spouse; (3) the person against whom the action is brought was married to the receiving spouse at the time the medical services were provided; and (4) payment for the necessaries has not been made.[FN6]
Exceptions to the Doctrine of Necessaries
There is an exception to the doctrine of necessaries where the husband and wife are separated at the time the necessaries are provided.[FN7] The spouse seeking the benefit from the separation exception to the doctrine of necessaries must show that the provider of necessary services had actual notice of the separation at the time the services were rendered. "Fault" for the separation is not a factor to be considered in applying the separation exception. For instance, it was held that the separation exception did not apply, and the hospital was entitled to summary judgment in an action to collect from the wife payment for medical services to the husband, where the wife took the husband to the hospital and admitted him; the wife did not put the hospital on notice of their separation at the time she admitted him to the hospital; it was not until the hospital had been frustrated in its efforts to collect the medical bills from the husband's insurance and from his estate that the the wife
first informed the hospital that she and her husband had been separated at the time the medical care was provided; and the hospital did not have actual notice of the defendant's separation from her husband at the time it rendered the medical services to him.[FN8] So for a spouse to establish a defense to a claim for necessaries provided to the other spouse, the parties must be separated at the time the necessaries were provided, and the provider must have actual notice of the separation.[FN9]
[FN1] Bowen v. Daugherty, 168 N.C. 242, 84 S.E. 265 (1915).
[FN2] Forsyth Memorial Hosp., Inc. v. Chisholm, 342 N.C. 616, 467 S.E.2d 88 (1996); North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, Inc. v. Harris, 319 N.C. 347, 354 S.E.2d 471 (1987).
[FN3] North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, Inc. v. Harris, 319 N.C. 347, 354 S.E.2d 471 (1987).
References Continued ...
[FN5] Cole v. Adams, 56 N.C. App. 714, 289 S.E.2d 918 (1982); Forsyth Memorial Hosp., Inc. v. Chisholm, 342 N.C. 616, 467 S.E.2d 88 (1996); Cole v. Adams, 56 N.C. App. 714, 289 S.E.2d 918 (1982); Presbyterian Hosp. v. McCartha, 66 N.C. App. 177, 310 S.E.2d 409 (1984), review allowed in part, 311 N.C. 403, 319 S.E.2d 273 (1984), on reconsideration, 311 N.C. 762, 321 S.E.2d 143 (1984) and review dismissed, 312 N.C. 485, 322 S.E.2d 761 (1984), and overruled on other grounds by, North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, Inc. v. Harris, 319 N.C. 347, 354 S.E.2d 471 (1987). Medical care, food, clothing, lodging, and proper education, have been held to be within the cl
Additional resources provided by the author
Kelso, North Carolina Family Law Practice, Section 5-4 (2008)
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