Medical Bills Incurred by a Minor: Right to Recover Belongs to the Parent, and So Does the Two Year Statute of Limitations – by Ashley A. MacNamara

Ashley MacNamara Headshot - for websiteDamage to Property Rights – The Old View

Previously, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the “[m]edical expenses, incurred for treatment of a minor child’s injuries, and the loss of the child’s services, when caused by the tortious act of another, are elements of damage to the father’s property rights, and give rise to a cause of action in the father.” Krasner v. O’Dell, 89 Ga App. 718, 80 S.E.2d 852, 854 (1954)

These cases were based on former Code section 53-510. Because these cases viewed the medical expenses as damage to the parent’s property, the four year statute of limitations for injuries to personalty applied. See Silvertooth v. Shallenberger, 49 Ga.App. 133 (1934); Kelly v. McCoy, 85 Ga.App. 514 (1952).

Reimbursement for Statutory Obligation – The Current View

Current O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2 holds that “[i]t is the joint and several duty of each parent to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of his or her child until the child reached the age of majority….”

“Under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2, the right to recover a minor’s medical expenses in a tort action is vested solely in the child’s parents.” Mitchell v. Hamilton, 228 Ga.App. 850, 851 (1997).  “The expiration of the two-year statute of limitation for personal injury extinguish[es] these claims.” Id.

The applicable statute of limitations is the two year period for personal injuries because that is how the damages were caused, i.e. personal injury vs. injury to personality. The right of parents to recover a minor’s medical expenses “remains supportable under existing statutory law, for under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2, parents are responsible for medical expenses incurred in treatment of their minor children.” Brent v. Hin, 254 Ga.App. 77, 79 (2002).

Therefore, the right to recover for the medical expenses of a minor still belongs to the parents, but it is based on the parents’ obligation by statute to provide medical care for their children, not because the parents have suffered injury to their property. Brent v. Hin, 254 Ga.App. at 79; Mitchell v. Hamilton, 228 Ga.App. at 851.