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socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Bankruptcy Law
Satisfied Customers: 39047
Experience:  Attorney and Real Estate Broker -- Retired (mostly)
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My, as well as numerous other patients, dentist took our money,

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My, as well as numerous other patients', dentist took our money, didn't privide the the completed service/product paid for and is now filing bankruptcy. I looked at the bankruptcy court website here in CA and saw all his creditors i.e. banks, credit companies, utilities, basically businesses were named as his creditors, none of us patients. What does this mean for us as patients?

I have just reviewed your question here, as well as the very similar question that was answered by another contributor a couple of days ago. I regret to say that I strongly disagree with just about everything that the other contributor told you.

Before I answer, can you please tell me if the dentist's bankruptcy is a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Thanks in advance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
He filed Ch 13 on 3/6/13 and then Ch 7 on 4/29/13.

Okay, thanks.

Chapter 7 is liquidation bankruptcy. This means that you and every other patient is an unsecured creditor, who will get whatever value from the bankruptcy estate exists at the date of discharge. The idea that a dentist has no income, so as to be able to file Chapter 7 seems highly unlikely to me. However, I suppose that the dentist could be suspended from practice for other reasons, or in some circumstance where he/she has no income.

You and your copatients may want to consider hiring a creditor's bankruptcy attorney, and filing an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court -- claiming that the dentist has committed a fraud against all of you, and never intended to perform any of these procedures -- it was all just a scam to take your money. If successful, then your claims would be ruled nondischargeable and you could continue to pursue the dentist after the bankruptcy ends, to recover your money.

Assuming that the dentist returns to practice, then you ought to be able to collect. Alternatively, you can file a complaint with the Board of Dentistry, and the dentist may lose his/her license for committing an act of "moral turpitude," i.e., a fraud against his/her patients.

Note: Re the previous answer you received, you cannot sue in small claims court -- the bankruptcy prevents you from suing the dentist for any claims that arose prior to the bankruptcy filing -- unless you succeed with an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, as I have described above.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Will the dentist list all of the patients he owes money to, or do we all have to take action on each on our own behalf or as a group?
Will the dentist list all of the patients he owes money to.

A: He probably will list everyone, but if this is a "no asset" Chapter 7, then he doesn't have to list anyone, because every claim will be discharged. So, you cannot count on being able to use the bankruptcy court creditor matrix to determine the other patients identities.

or do we all have to take action on each on our own behalf or as a group?

A: You can sue as individuals, or as a group, assuming that your claims are the same (fraud). If you know any of the other patients, then you can combine your resources, sue together, and then as part of the adversary proceeding, name the other plaintiff's as "John and Jane Does," and then force the dentist to disclose the other patients identities so that they can all be added as plaintiffs. Assuming that the dentist has any assets, he may decide to try to settle, rather than risk having a bankruptcy in which most of the claims are declared nondischargeable.

But, if you do nothing, then your and every other patient's claim will be discharged, and the dentist will be free of further liability to you. Though, you could still file a complaint with the Dental Board, and the dentist may have his license "pulled" (pun intended).

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
So this is something that has to be and should be done very soon? And If we hire a creditor's bankruptcy attorney, and file an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court and are successful will we be able to sue for the amount we had to pay another dentist to complete the work and provide us the product we paid for and didn't get from him? For example in my case I have been quoted I'll have to put out $30,000.00 to have the work completed that he started and didn't complete.
If you prevail in the adversary proceeding, you could sue for the breach of contract, malpractice, and seek damages for the cost of remedying any defects by the dentist's failure to perform. You could include this as part of the adversary proceeding, and have the bankruptcy court "liquidate" (make definite and certain) the amount of your total claims against the dentist.

Hope this helps.
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