Skip to main content

Nova Scotia Court Throws Out Patient’s Lawsuit Against Dentist

By March 14, 2019October 4th, 2019Practice Management

This was a sad case.  Sad because it was brought by a patient against a dentist when it never should have been brought to begin with.  The claims were meritless (no chance of success) or were not based on laws that had been broken (no legal grounds to bring them).  Public resources were wasted (court time).  Fees were spent necessarily (or perhaps unnecessarily) on lawyers.  And the emotional drag, time and money wasting likely didn’t make the dentist feel better during this entire escapade.

Now just think about that Nova Scotia Dentist.  Poor Dr. Paula MacPherson had to defend her professional integrity.   The patient came to her on September 14, 2016.  And it wasn’t until October 23, 2018 that a judgement in her favour was rendered.  That’s over 2 years!

To defend her integrity, Dr. MacPherson had to pull up records.  She had to get lawyers involved.   And all for what?  Because a former patient wasn’t happy when her filling fell out! So that patient sued the dentist for $9,670 plus interest and threw every meritless allegation at this dentist to see what, if anything, would stick.  And guess what happened?  Nothing stuck!

Thankfully, the Court weighed the evidence and the legalities of the situation and dismissed the entire case.

Now, keep in mind that Dr. MacPherson had offered to pay this patient, in an attempt to settle to make it all go away, $2,500.  But the patient refused to accept it based on principle!  So when the court dismissed the case, it ordered the patient to pay Dr. MacPherson $4,374.05 in costs forthwith.  Ouch!

So let’s get into the details of that case, shall we?

The case is called Polishchuk v. Southgate Dentistry 2018 CarswellNS 792.   The patient saw Dr. MacPherson on September 14, 2016.  The patient wasn’t previously a patient of the practice, but showed up complaining of discomfort.  Dr. MacPherson determined that she required several fillings.  The patient came back 2 days later and the fillings were done.  The patient’s husband (who ended up representing her in court once the case was brought) showed up a few days later and made statements to the staff that were “threatening, aggressive and disrespectful”.   So the next time Dr. MacPherson saw the patient, she told her that her husband wasn’t welcome at the practice.  The patient responded that Dr. MacPherson had overcharged her and that she would be suing her and the clinic.

OK so what about the claims brought by the patient?

The patient claimed that Dr. MacPherson had overcharged her, had charged her for services not rendered, had not provided her with an invoice, and had failed to explain the cost of the treatment.  The patient also claimed that Dr. MacPherson was disrespectful to the patient, verbally abuse to the patient and the patient’s husband, made a false statement about the treatment, and – JUST TO TOP IT ALL OFF – was professionally incompetent. Wow!

OK, so what did the evidence looks like

Glad you asked.

So Dr. MacPherson showed the court a statement of account.   But even if Dr. MacPherson DID NOT show an itemized account, that’s NOT something you can sue for.  Next!

Dr. MacPherson didn’t give an estimate of the fees to the patient.  The Court found that’s NOT something you can sue for.  Next!

Dr. MacPherson may have told the patient that she was free to go back to her own country to replace the crowns on her front teeth.  The patient was personally offended by Dr. MacPherson’s statements and intentions, but it wasn’t clear what Dr. MacPherson’s intentions were.  In any event, the Court said, once again, this isn’t something you can sue over.  Next!

Dr. MacPherson told the patient that she and her husband were no longer welcome at the clinic.  Again, the Court found that these words “do not form the basis” of something you can sue for.

OK… let’s keep going.

What about Dr. MacPherson charging $49 for an emergency exam even though it may NOT have been an emergency according to the patient?  The Court noted that, even if it was a “specific exam” (per the Fee Guide), it would have still been $49.   So no chance of success there.

What about Dr. MacPherson charging the patient for 2 fillings when the patient claimed she should have been charged for just the 1 filling?  Well, no evidence was presented by the patient here.  So that claim was dismissed.

What about $61.60 being added to the final invoice?  There’s no evidence of it being “added”.  That was simply the amount by which the insurance coverage EXCEEDED the anticipated charge.  That amount was reimbursed to the patient and she received a cheque. So no claim there.

And finally, and most importantly, what about the 1 filling that fell out?  Well, fillings ARE NOT guaranteed to stay in.  And the patient provided NO evidence as to why the filling fell out.  The patient also couldn’t prove why it was Dr. MacPherson’s fault that the filling fell out.  There was no expert report provided to help guide the court with information as to what the standard care was and whether it had been met.  So no chance of success there.

Conclusion

The claims raised by the patient were either NOT legal claims OR there was no evidence to support them.  Although the patient was self-represented (which probably explains why she didn’t advance her claims properly – either legally or factually), this patient’s claims forced Dr. MacPherson to defend her professional integrity.  Dr. MacPherson was 100% successful in asking the Court to dismiss all of these claims.   As such, the Court ordered the patient to forthwith pay Dr. MacPherson $3,000 plus disbursements of $1,374.05.

Case closed.