A lawyer who filed a lawsuit after she was billed by the New Taipei City Social Welfare Department for nursing home fees for the father who had abandoned her when she was 11 has lost her case, but did succeed in getting a reduction in the monthly nursing home bill.
The woman filed the lawsuit after receiving a notice in 2017 from the New Taipei City Social Welfare Department, billing her NT$18,000 per month to cover her father’s nursing home fees.
Saying that her father failed in his duty to raise her, she filed suit with the New Taipei City District Court for an exemption to or a reduction in the nursing home fees, citing his abandonment of her 20 years before.
In her filings, the plaintiff, surnamed Hung (洪), said that after her mother died, her father never properly cared for her or her elder sister when they were underage.
He would often leave her at home alone, seldom provided three meals a day, asked for money from the elder daughter — a teenaged student who had a part-time job — and left it up to the teen to bring dinner home for her sister, the woman’s filing said.
In 2000, when the plaintiff was 11, the father fled the family home to escape his creditors, taking with him everything of value, including the plaintiff’s piggy bank, leaving only an old refrigerator and the daughters to face the debt collectors on their own, the filing said.
Their father never sent support money, even though the two girls were not old enough to provide for themselves, which implied intentionality that constitutes criminal abandonment, the plaintiff said in the court filing.
Her elder sister, then 17, was forced to approach their aunt and grandmother to take over the younger sister’s care, but since the grandmother was 78 years old, the burden fell on the aunt, who worked as a domestic helper, the plaintiff said.
On Tuesday last week, the court ruled that the woman’s father had not intentionally abandoned her, and that she had not provided sufficient evidence that her life had been endangered by his failure to fulfill his parental obligations.
At the time of the father’s departure, the elder sister was already struggling to provide for the father and younger sister, but shortly thereafter, the plaintiff was placed under the care of her sister, grandmother and aunt, meaning that she had not been endangered by her father’s leaving, the court said in its ruling.
There was reason to believe that the father had trusted that the plaintiff would be well looked after, and he had received updates about her and her studies from his mother and brother, who were in contact with the aunt, the court said.
The father also occasionally provided pocket money for the plaintiff, which showed that his abandonment had been unintentional and therefore was not criminal, it said.
Since her father had provided sufficient care for her in the 11 years before his departure, she would still have to pay the nursing home for his care, the ruling said.
However, the court ruled that she only had to pay NT$6,000 per month.
The ruling can be appealed.
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