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STATE TEXAS v. JOHN F. RUBION (12/04/57)

decided: December 4, 1957.

THE STATE OF TEXAS
v.
JOHN F. RUBION, INDEPENDENT EXECUTOR AND TRUSTEE OF THE ESTATE OF NELLIE HANSLEY, DECEASED, ET AL



Error from the Court of Civil Appeals for the First District, in an appeal from Galveston County.

COUNSEL

John Ben Shepperd, former Attorney General, W. E. Allen and Katherine W. Conti, Assistants Attorney General, Russel G. Poling and E. M. Scott, for Board of Texas State Hospitals and Special School, W. O. Smyth, of Austin, and A. R. Schwartz, of Galveston, Will Wilson (present Attorney General), John Minton, Assistant Attorney General, for petitioner.

COUNSEL

Lawrence M. Coughlin, of Galveston, for respondent.

Mr. Justice Smith delivered the opinion of the Court.

Author: Smith

[ 1 Tex. Sup. J. Page 46]

    This is a suit brought by the State of Texas, through the Board of Texas Hospitals and Special Schools, for reimbursement for expenditures in furnishing support, maintenance, and treatment of a patient, Ella Hansley, at Abilene State Hospital during the period from April 25, 1945 to June 30, 1953. The amount due for that period is alleged to be $3,068.40, of which it is alleged that $2,980.00 accrued after January 23, 1947, the date of the death of Nellie Hansley, grandmother and adoptive mother of the patient. Nellie Hansley devised all of her residuary estate remaining after payment of debts to John F. Rubion, in trust, for the support and maintenance of Ella Hansley. The State sought recovery against John F. Rubion, in his capacity as independent executor and trustee of the estate of Nellie Hansley, deceased, for $2,980.00 and against Ella Hansley for $88.40, the remainder of said unpaid balance accruing prior to the date of the testatrix's death. On the trial before the court without a jury, judgment was rendered against the state and in favor of both defendants. The State did not appeal from the judgment in favor of the patient. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of the trustee. 292 S.W.2d 650. Ella Hansley, thirty-one years of age, was adjudged to be an epileptic and ordered admitted to the Abilene State Hospital at Abilene, Texas. She was never married but was cared for by her grandmother and mother by adoption, Nellie Hansley, until the time of her admission to Abilene State Hospital on April 25, 1945. She has been a patient in that hospital since that time and presumably still so remains.

The State had no right at common law to reimbursement of money expended for the care and maintenance of public patients such as Ella Hansley. Wiseman v. State, Texas Civ. App., 94 S.W.2d 265,

[ 1 Tex. Sup. J. Page 47]

    writ refused. The right of reimbursement must, therefore, rest entirely upon statutory enactment. By an Act passed in 1949 the 51st Legislature undertook to grant a right by reimbursement to the State for care and maintenance extended to epileptics. See Acts 1949, 51st Leg., p. 756, Ch. 406, now appearing in Vernon's Annotated Texas Statutes as Article 3232a. Particular provision for reimbursement and for a lien on the property of the patient to secure the same is made in section 11 of Art. 3232a. Respondent argues that Section 11 is unconstitutional and void because the caption of the Act did not give notice of its presence in the Act as required by Section 35, Article 3 of the Constitution of Texas.

The caption of the Act reads as follows:

"An Act to provide for the better and more efficient care of epileptic patients at the Abilene State Hospital; defining the duties of the Superintendent; prescribing the means for admission; authorizing the transfer of epileptic patients from the mental hospitals to the epileptic hospital; prescribing the duties of the County Judge regarding admissions; providing for a repealing clause; and declaring an emergency."

Section 3 of the Act provides for admission of patients to the Abilene State Hospital for epileptics, classifies patients as indigent public patients, non-indigent public patients and private patients, and defines indigent and non-indigent public patients. Non-indigent public patients are said to be "those who possess some property out of which the State may be reimbursed or who have someone legally liable for their support, maintenance and treatment." Section 3 then continues: "This class shall be kept and maintained at the expense of the State, as in the first instance, but in such cases the State shall have the right to be reimbursed for the support, maintenance and treatment of such patients." Section 11 repeats the quoted language, and continues: "* * * and the claim of the State for such support, maintenance and treatment shall constitute a valid lien against property of such patient, or in case he has a guardian, against the estate, or against the person or persons who may be ...


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