6 yr old goes into hospital for surgery. Bill was not paid fully. Boy is now a grown adult. Can his wages be garnished for this bill?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Not unless he fails to properly defend a suit he could have won.
It depends on a whole lot of other information that you do not provide. You do not indicate what state the boy lived in when he received treatment. Nor do you indicate why the boy would be personally liable or how old he was when he got the treatment.
Some states, like Georgia, allow wage garnishment and some do not. Either way, wages cannot be garnished until a judment has been entered for at least 30 days.
Don't wait until the employer is notified of a wage levy as it is often too late at that point. If the boy is sued, then he needs to take the papers to a general civil defense (or attorney specializing in the representation of debtors) immediately.
If this debt is clearly barred by expiration of the statute, then that does not mean that the bill is not owed. The medical provider can still try and collect until the boy dies. However, it generally means that the creditor or collector is unlikely to sue and that the collector will just make calls. If this is your case, it may be that the debt collector is just trying to intimidate the boy into paying. Paying an attorney to send a "drop dead" letter in such case is a good idea because the boy wants to be careful in his wording so as not to acknowledge the debt or revive the statute of limitations. There are numerous samples of free "drop dead" letters on the internet. I can't speak to the merits of any in particular, but the boy can send his own if he is confident of the statute.
The statute of limitations in Georgia (if this is a Georgia debt) is 4-6 years. Other states may have a longer or shorter time. There may also be the question of "tolling" until the boy turned 18 as he could not be sued while he was a minor.
The usual prohibition about minors being able to rescind contracts may not apply to hospital bills as medical treatment is usually a necessary.
My advice would be to go and pay a lawyer for a 30 minute consult about the medical debt so that the boy can learn about and protect his rights.