CHARLESTON – A dispute over a dental bill has been moved from Kanawha magistrate court to circuit court.

Jon Christopher Smith, a Charleston dentist, initially had filed a civil claim against Angela Altmeyer on Aug. 28, 2008, in magistrate court, claiming she owed $630 for dental work he performed on her.

But when Altmeyer filed a counterclaim against Smith, the plaintiff sought to move the action to circuit court in anticipation of any appeals.

Smith's lawyer, Larry Skeen, sought to move the case out of Kanawha Magistrate Tim Halloran's court at the end of October, but some kind of snafu caused the request to fall through the cracks.

Skeen again petitioned to have the case moved at the end of January 2009, and the request was granted on Feb. 20. The case was sent to Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman's court.

Altmeyer, through her lawyer Stewart Altmeyer, claims that she was hoodwinked into agreeing to undergo continued dental work with Smith.

Altmeyer's counterclaim asserts that Smith told her that in order to "achieve a healthy dental state" she required more dental work as soon as possible.

According to the counterclaim, Altmeyer had reached the maximum payout from her insurance company, Delta Dental. She claims she told Smith she would have to wait to have the work done when her policy renewed in July 2008, a year after she took out the policy with Delta Dental.

Altmeyer claims that Smith's office manager, Patty Johnson, claimed to be familiar with the workings of Delta Dental and assured Altmeyer that her policy had renewed in January 2008. Based on that assurance, Smith says she agreed to schedule the dental work shortly after Jan. 1.

The defendant claims that either right before or after the procedure – allegedly under anesthesia – she signed forms that bound her to pay any amounts above her co-payments that were not covered by her insurance.

Altmeyer likened the forms to a "take-it-or-leave-it" situation, considering the timing. The complaints say the forms were "unconscionable" and "unenforceable."

Altmeyer says she's entitled to damages not to exceed $4,000.

Altmeyer also filed a third-party claim against Johnson in the event that the dentist's office tries to say the office manager acted without authority.

Smith has filed a motion to either strike or dismiss Altmeyer's actions.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-289




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