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Michael Walther v. Nalin Patel

February 4, 2011

MICHAEL WALTHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NALIN PATEL, D.M.D. ET AL. , DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by Defendants Nalin Patel DMD, Nalin Patel DMD PC, Advanced Dental Care, Advanced Dental Care LLC, and Fairless Hills Dental Center ("Dental Defendants") [doc. no. 20]; and Defendants Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., Capital One Financial Corporation, and Capital One N.A. ("Capital One Defendants") [doc. no. 16]. *fn1 For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims that the Dental Defendants and the Capital One Defendants violated Sections 1962(c) and (d) of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for failure to state a claim. The Court will also dismiss the state claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c).

I. P ROCEDURAL & F ACTUAL B ACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michael Walther, a resident of Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, is a developmentally disabled adult who is unemployed but lives independently on a small fixed income. *fn2 During the relevant period he had no guardian or attorney. *fn3 Dental Defendants maintain their principal places of business in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. *fn4 Capital One Defendants maintain their principal places of business in Virginia. *fn5

In February 2008, Walther contacted Dental Defendants *fn6 via phone to obtain an examination, cleaning, and teeth whitening, claiming he wanted a "beautiful smile as seen on TV," and was told he would need to appear in the office for an examination and an estimate. *fn7

During that first visit, Walther was given an estimate of $600, which he was told he could pay in installments. *fn8 He scheduled the treatment for February 22, 2008.*fn9
Walther alleges that during that February 22 appointment, he was "subjected to a barrage of cosmetic dentistry promotional media including brochures, posters and video." *fn10 He avers he arrived at the Dental Defendants' office with "the purpose of acquiring the beautiful smile that Dental Defendants had promised him, such as he sees both on TV and in the Dental Defendants' video." *fn11 Dental Defendants told Walther they could complete the treatment that day. *fn12

After examining Walther and unsuccessfully attempting to explain the proposed treatment and financing plan to Walther, Walther instructed Dental Defendants to telephone his friend, who, Walther claims, did not bind Walther to that proposed plan or represent that she had the authority to do so. *fn13 Thereafter, Dental Defendants contacted Capital One Defendants regarding a $25,000 loan to finance the proposed treatment. *fn14 Walther never spoke with or otherwise directly communicated with the Capital One Defendants. *fn15

Dental Defendants gave Walther a series of documents to sign, including: (1) the Advanced Dental Care Financial Policy; (2) the Treatment Plan; (3) an Advanced Dental Care General Dentistry Treatment Form; (4) consent forms for "Fillings, Inlays, and Onlays," and for "Cosmetic Dentistry;" and (5) a Capital One Health Care Finance Credit Application. *fn16

Walther characterizes the dental work as a "full-mouth restoration," and, indeed, the detailed, three-page treatment plan includes a listing of procedures to be provided-scaling and root planing, dental crowns, inlays and veneers-and the prices for each procedure, totaling $26,525. *fn17 Walther signed a copy of that treatment plan, declaring that he had "not been pressurized [sic] by the staff or the doctor of Advanced Dental Care" and that he understood "all the guidelines of the treatment and the loan." *fn18 Walther also signed the General Dentistry Treatment form authorizing "the dental restoration and treatments as explained to [him]," and the two consent forms authorizing "A. Patel" and associates to render any treatments deemed necessary or advisable. *fn19

The Advanced Dental Care Financial Policy provided to Walther discloses that full payment for services is due the day treatment begins and offers financing through "third party finance offices," including Capital One and several other lenders, with loans up to 5 years. *fn20

Walther signed that form, declaring that he understood and accepted the terms of the policy. *fn21

Dental Defendants contacted Capital One Defendants online to arrange for a $25,000 loan. *fn22 Walther signed the credit application, *fn23 and, within ten minutes after it was sent, Dental Defendants received telephone approval of the application for a $25,000 loan at 19.99% interest over a five-year term, at an actual cost of $40,000 over the life of the loan. *fn24 Although Walther alleges that the $25,000 was to be immediately disbursed to Dental Defendants, he also asserts that weeks after the treatment, he received the loan documents from Capital One and a bill from Dental Defendants. *fn25

Dental Defendants performed most of the extensive cosmetic dentistry described in the treatment plan in a single day. Subsequently, the caps, crowns, and veneers loosened or completely detached, "leaving plaintiff with missing and deformed teeth, altering and worsening his bite, and substantially aggravating his pre-existing speech impediment." *fn26 Walther also complains of abnormal or loss of sensation in his mouth, loss and improper spacing of teeth, difficulty eating, and the risk of future periodontal and other dental disease. *fn27 In addition, his credit has suffered. *fn28

Walther generally alleges that the Dental Defendants manipulated or deceived Walther into signing the loan documents "by the in-office promotional media and by representing that Dental Defendants could and would provide Plaintiff virtually instantly with the clean, white teeth and beautiful smile that he desired." *fn29 Defendants also purportedly misrepresented that the treatments were medically necessary. *fn30 Walther claims Defendants knew or should have known that he did not understand or appreciate either the documents presented to him or Defendants' representations *fn31 about the cost and nature of the dental services and financing to be provided, and took advantage of his disability. *fn32 Walther also alleges that Defendants failed to inform him of the extent and cost of the dental and financial services. *fn33 Walther believed, based on his prior visit, that he was financing only $600-the estimated cost of cleaning and whitening presented at his first visit. *fn34

On February 19, 2010, Walther filed the pending action against the Dental and Capital One Defendants in this Court [doc. no. 1], alleging:

* two state law claims against only the Dental Defendants: Negligence (Count I) and Negligence Under Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 323 & 324 (Count II);

* four state law claims against all Defendants: violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa. C.S.A. § 201 et seq . (Count III); Negligent Misrepresentation (Count IV); Intentional Misrepresentation (Count V); and Common Law Deceit (Count VI);

* two federal claims against all Defendants: violation of the Section 1962(c) of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") (Count ...


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