A judge has ordered Jennifer Carnahan, widow of the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, to reimburse the congressman's family members for more than $20,000 that they spent on his medical expenses.
Faribault County District Judge Troy Timmerman on Wednesday ordered Carnahan to repay the family members for the medical care given to Hagedorn, who died in February 2022 after battling kidney cancer and COVID-19.
Carnahan said Thursday that she plans to appeal the decision and bring counter claims in district court.
Hagedorn's mother, stepfather and sister sued Carnahan in May, claiming that she failed to act on a promise to repay them for medical costs out of the death benefits she inherited after her husband's death.
While the family members contended in two lawsuits that the money was meant as a loan, Carnahan said she had interpreted it as a gift.
"It was never predicated on any promise of repayment from me at all," she said Thursday. "I was under the impression this whole time that they were gifting their brother and son money to live to fight another day, as I had done."
Carnahan, former chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, made an unsuccessful bid for her husband's First Congressional District seat after he died. Hagedorn's family members filed the cases against her shortly before the special primary election was held to fill out the remainder of Hagedorn's term.
Carnahan said she believes the lawsuits were filed "with malicious intent to harm my campaign and denigrate my marriage."
Robert Kreklau, Hagedorn's stepfather, declined to comment Thursday on the situation.
Mayo Clinic staffers told Hagedorn in January that they had exhausted their options to treat his cancer. According to court documents, he and Carnahan decided to seek treatment at Envita Medical Centers in Arizona, which was not covered by his health insurance.
Carnahan said Hagedorn did not have extra cash available and that she had "drained my entire savings account" to pay medical expenses and costs associated with caring for her husband. They turned to his family for help.
Robert Kreklau and Hagedorn's mother, Kathy Kreklau, took out a loan on their home equity and paid $10,383 toward his treatment, and his sister Tricia Lucas used a personal credit card to provide $10,000, court documents state. That's the money that Carnahan has been ordered to pay back, along with some fees.
"We respectfully disagree with the ruling, and she intends to appeal," said Carnahan's attorney, Kirk Tisher. He said the counter claims she plans to bring against the family members have not yet been drafted.
Meanwhile, Carnahan also is embroiled in a legal fight with her former employer, the state's Republican Party. She was forced out of her leadership role with the party last summer amid allegations that she had created a toxic workplace environment.
She recently sued the party, claiming party officials violated a separation agreement by disparaging her and hurting her ability to find other work. The state GOP countersued, saying that Carnahan had "grossly mismanaged" the party.