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A mother of a family has sated she will spread a negative word about my practice within the neighborhood.

Reston, VA |
Filed under: Professional ethics

A family presented to our dental practice with 4 children for routine visits. The mother was under the impression that her children were covered under their insurance, but were not. We did not feel obligated to simply write off the balance which was several hundred dollars.
We did grant a 15% discount on the balance. We received a letter from the family asking that we write-off the remainder of the balance, less a $100 check payment enclosed with the letter. After we sent a subsequent bill, we received full payment with a letter stating "given my position in the neighborhood, it will be easy for me to spread the word that [our practice] is not interested in family at all, but rather, the fact that "we need to stay in business."

Should we consider taking legal action against this family?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. this is really a strategy question more than a legal question. the issue involves “reputation management”. I would have a sit down face-to-face meeting with the mother/father to explain things. A lot of angst and anger gets built up via letters and e-mails. There really is no legal action to take against the family right now given that you have been paid in full and they've only threatened to say bad things about you. Of course it's absolutely true that you “need to stay in business.” We all do. You absolutely are not obligated to simply write off the balance because of the mothers mistake. There may even be something in your own system that you can fix to make sure that this doesn't happen again since obviously it can lead to ill will. I would bet that a sit down meeting would go a long ways towards repairing this relationship. The last thing you need are legal bills.

    Ben Glass is licensed in Virginia. He offers a number of free consumer book downloads at his site for information purposes only. You should consult an experienced, board certified attorney in your area. Obviously, no attorney client relationship is formed by participating in Avvo.

  2. I agree with counsel. It's really more of a strategy question although if they're interfering with your practice then I'd consult with a lawyer licensed in your state. I'm licensed in California.

    Ms. Johns can be reached at (866) 402-4038. Ms. Johns is a lawyer although she is not your lawyer unless and until you have consulted with her and signed a fee or letter agreement confirming her representation of you. This email does not otherwise constitute legal advice or create an attorney client relationship. Ms. Johns and her employees are not tax lawyers or financial advisors and do not give tax or financial advice of any kind. If you wish such services, please consult with the appropriate professional in that field.

  3. to perhaps focus your mind on strategy, what are the potential costs of suppressing this persons comments with a defamation of business reputation lawsuit and consequent negative publicity, or just absorbing the negative opinion, versus taking time to positively engage with them about their dissatisfaction? Sometimes a "bad" customer is your best source of information as they can reveal weaknesses in your operation which "good" customers do not and that would have required a large consulting fee to discover. Unless these folks are just freeloaders, it is possible a misunderstanding occurred during intake. If that happened, how would you like to be treated if you were in the unhappy customer's position? And, a note from the dentists lawyer threatening legal action is not the best answer 99 times out of 100.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not your attorney and readers employ any information provided herein at their own risk. Any comment is for general educational purposes only, and is based only on the limited facts provided, which may or may not be true. It is not legal advice upon which you may rely, as the commenter has not interviewed witnesses or examined any evidence, and has not researched the applicable law. Available defenses may prevent the success of any claim. Competent legal advice should always be obtained from a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction before taking any legal action or filing suit.

  4. I agree with Ben Glass and other attorneys here. As long as you've been paid for your services, count yourself lucky and ahead of the game.

    If you need a debt collection attorney - call me. I have experience in obtaining judgments and collecting on judgments to ensure you get every penny you deserve.

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