United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Leonora Caruth has sued Dr. C. Benson Clark and his dental
practice, King Centre Dental ("Defendants") for
breach of contract and various torts relating to her dental
treatment between 2011 and 2014. After receiving treatment
from Dr. Clark, Ms. Caruth eventually abandoned Dr.
Clark's practice and went to a different provider who
determined it was necessary to replace all of Ms.
Caruth's teeth and consequently remove all of Dr.
Clark's work. Following this series of events, Ms. Caruth
brought claims for: (1) medical negligence; (2) battery; (3)
breach of contract; (4) fraud; and (5) a violation of the
Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA). Defendants have
moved for Summary Judgment on all claims. (Dkt. No. 34). The
parties fully briefed the matter and the Court heard oral
argument on March 24, 2017. For the reasons that follow, the
Court hereby GRANTS summary judgment as to the VCPA claims,
but DENIES the motion in all other respects.
2011, Plaintiff went to see Dr. Adrian Wilson for advice
about her dental treatment options after her braces were
removed. Plaintiff was concerned that, once the upper and
lower braces were off, she might need additional work to
ensure that the teeth stayed in place. Dr. Wilson recommended
that Plaintiff go see Dr. Clark for an opinion on treatment
options. Dr. Clark is a general dentist who specializes in
implants. On Dr. Wilson's advice, Plaintiff first visited
Dr. Clark on June 17, 2011.
Initial Visit on June 17, 2011
initial consultation on June 17, 2011 Dr. Clark recommended
implants, ''although there was some discussion of
partial dentures and bridges" as well. It is undisputed
that Dr. Clark did not provide any formal written treatment
plan during this first visit. The best evidence of the
treatment plan is a 2008 image of Plaintiff s mouth with some
handwritten notes on it. Defs.' Mem. in Supp., Ex. F-3
(Dkt. No. 35-4). Beyond that, the parties dispute the scope
of the agreed-upon treatment. Nonetheless, they seem to agree
that some of the work would focus on Tooth 21, which was the
anchor for a bridge is Ms. Caruth's mouth at the time of
the visit. Ms. Caruth alleges that Dr. Clark told her the
entire treatment (the scope of which is disputed) would cost
$24, 000, and she therefore obtained a loan for that amount
from a company called CareCredit.
First Treatment Visit on June 21, 2011
Caruth received her first treatment from Dr. Clark on June
21, 2011. During this visit, Dr. Clark removed an old bridge
that encompassed Tooth 21. Dr. Clark asserts that, once the
bridge was removed, it became clear that Tooth 21 was
compromised and that a new crown would not provide sufficient
support for a new bridge across Teeth 18-21. At that time,
Dr. Clark determined that he would have to remove Tooth 21
and replace it with an implant. Ms. Caruth challenges whether
removal of Tooth 21 was necessary. She suggests that Dr.
Clark's financial problems give the jury enough
information to believe that Dr. Clark unnecessarily removed
the tooth at a cost of $5, 920 rather than charging $900 for
parties further dispute the extent of the discussion that
happened before the tooth removal. Ms. Caruth stated that,
after she was numbed, Dr. Clark told her "he has to take
out the tooth, and he took out the tooth." Ms. Caruth
was charged an additional $5, 300 or $5, 800 (beyond the
original $24, 000) for this visit. Ms. Caruth spoke with Ms.
Franklin (an employee at Dr. Clark's office) about the
bill, but did not protest at that time.
Subsequent Issues and Charges
Caruth alleges the following issues that arose after this
initial visit: (1) the implant on Tooth 21 needed to be
""re-installed" or replaced in or around
November 2011 and again in or around February 2012; (2) Ms.
Caruth's temporary crowns were deteriorating, chipping,
breaking, and falling out of place; (3) Ms. Caruth's
tooth enamel and gum health was deteriorating; (4) on
September 15, Dr. Wilson informed her that her mouth was in
"a state of disrepair."
Caruth was charged a total of $22, 773 above and beyond the
$24, 000 that was initially agreed upon. That figure breaks
down to: (1) $5, 300 on June 21, 2011; (2) $2, 100 on October
22, 2012, which was reduced to $638; (3) $14, 835, reduced to
$6, 835 on April 10, 2013; (4) $10, 000 on June 26, 2013. Of
these additional charges, Ms. Caruth only actually paid $5,
511 beyond the initial $24, 000. Throughout the course of her
treatment, Dr. Clark asserts that there is an array of
services for which Ms. Caruth was not charged. All told,
these "service discounts and office adjustments"
totaled $12, 884.
New Treatment Plan and Involvement of Other Dentists
9, 2012, Ms. Caruth endorsed a new treatment plan that
included TENSing and electromyography to fix her bite. The
cost of this new treatment plan is unclear. On October 12,
Ms. Caruth enlisted the help of her previous dentist, Dr.
Wilson, to address a billing issue. Dr. Wilson, Ms. Caruth,
and Dr. Clark then all met together to discuss the bill, and
Dr. Clark reduced a $2, 100 bill to $638. On September 10,
2013, Ms. Caruth again enlisted the help of her dentists at
Connecticut Avenue Dental, who telephoned Dr. Clark to
discuss his treatment plan, the expected date of completion,
The February 4, 2014 Proposed Final Restoration
all of the facts surrounding the proposed restoration are in
dispute. Most prominently, the parties dispute both the
quality and the value of the work performed on Ms. Caruth
prior to February 4, 2014. This includes a dispute over
whether the bite work was "complete" and when and
how the billing discussions took place.
contend that Ms. Caruth's bite work was complete and she
was ready for permanent restorations or permanent crowns.
They further contend that Ms. Spriggs-the front office
administrator at Clark Dental-informed Ms. Caruth that the
work was estimated at $47, 600. When Ms. Caruth stated that
she would not pay that amount, Dr. Clark offered to complete
the work for $20, ...