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Tull v. Perciali

June 23, 2010

LEKHA TULL, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RODICA PERCIALI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. DC-11240-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 4, 2010

Before Judges Lihotz and Ashrafi.

Defendant Rodica Perciali appeals from a November 17, 2008 Special Civil Part judgment, entered following a bench trial, in favor of plaintiff Lekha Tull, D.D.S. Plaintiff's complaint sought $95 for dental services rendered; defendant disputed the obligation and counterclaimed for professional negligence and insurance fraud.

The trial judge credited plaintiff's testimony, awarded judgment and dismissed defendant's counterclaim. On appeal, defendant argues she was denied an adjournment and otherwise not given an opportunity to be heard. We disagree and affirm.

These are the facts as presented at trial. On May 21, 2007, defendant contracted with plaintiff to provide dental services. As a new patient, defendant was presented with a "Consent for Treatment" agreement, which she executed, authorizing plaintiff to perform all recommended treatment and assuming financial responsibility for any dental services rendered.

Plaintiff performed an oral examination and took full-mouth x-rays. During the examination, defendant expressed interest in dental implants. Plaintiff explained that in order to diagnose the possibility and positioning of implants, she would need a panoramic x-ray accompanied by an additional cost. Defendant "threw a fit," refused the procedure, left plaintiff's office and never returned.

Plaintiff billed defendant $100 for the examination and $175 for the full-mouth x-rays. Defendant's dental insurance provided payment of $180 and plaintiff billed defendant for the $95 balance. Defendant refused payment, claiming no services were performed.

Plaintiff initiated a Small Claims action. Defendant filed a counter-claim alleging consequential damages of $15,000 for professional negligence, and insurance fraud. In her pleadings, defendant asserted plaintiff failed to thoroughly diagnose her condition and, despite defendant's request, declined to provide a written medical evaluation and a copy of the x-rays, delaying her ability to travel to Romania to obtain dental implants. The case was transferred to the Special Civil Part.

At the commencement of trial, defendant requested an adjournment, suggesting she was still "running consequential damages." The trial court declined that request and heard the testimony of the parties. No expert witnesses were presented.

Plaintiff testified her records, including digital x-rays, were maintained electronically on the office computer. She introduced defendant's medical chart, which recorded the completed exam and full-mouth x-rays. Defendant denied plaintiff performed an examination, asserting she only looked at her mouth "for two seconds." Defendant acknowledged that she thought plaintiff took x-rays but, because she was not provided copies, concluded they were not taken.

The trial court entered judgment for plaintiff in the amount of $95 without costs. In dismissing defendant's counterclaim, the trial judge found no causal link between defendant's initial office visit and her claimed $15,000 loss for an alleged delay in obtaining dental implants.

On appeal, defendant asserts a denial of her procedural due process rights occurred when she was not given an adjournment or an opportunity to show plaintiff's refusal to provide a copy of the medical examination and x-ray ...


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