Topeka — A panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday rejected an appeal by a Lawrence dentist who filed a lawsuit to recover $57.69 from a former patient.
But the law firm representing Dr. Thomas Rainbolt said the appeal had nothing to do with trying to recover the money.
Brandy Sutton of Pendleton & Sutton Attorneys at Law said Rainbolt allowed the law firm to appeal the case to try to get clarification on a legal issue that she said comes up frequently in lawsuits involving small amounts of money.
The dispute stemmed from a February 2006 appointment when Amit Guha went to Rainbolt’s dentistry practice for a routine examination and cleaning and instead received a more expensive “periodontal maintenance” exam, the appeals court ruling states.
Guha’s insurance carrier refused to pay for the difference in cost, and in June 2009 Rainbolt filed action to collect the balance.
At a bench trial before District Court Judge Peggy Kittel, Guha represented himself, saying he had always requested services that would be fully covered by his insurance, and that he had not been told he would be getting a more expensive examination.
Kittel ruled that Guha was under no legal obligation to pay the amount the insurance declined to cover.
One of the major issues on appeal was Kittel’s denial of a summary judgment for Rainbolt and allowing Guha to respond to requests for admissions and interrogatories “out of time.” The appeals court panel, however, concluded that Kittel handled the case appropriately.
“Guha indicated he had been confused by communication from counsel for Dr. Rainbolt, and he outlined a defense on the merits. The district court left Dr. Rainbolt ample time to marshal his evidence for trial; it did not set aside admissions the day of trial, thereby discombobulating his ability to present his case. We are convinced the district court is not the only judge who would have handled the issue in this manner,” the panel said.
Rainbolt’s attorneys also said the district court erred in finding for Guha based on the trial evidence.
Guha had signed a “consent for services” requiring him to be responsible for paying for all dental services received even if the insurance provider refused to pay.
But the appeals court said the patient would have to approve those services to be responsible for the payment.