27
Jul
07

A boorish dentist makes a killing…

Today we learn about a dentist turned prankster, who, in the middle of a dental procedure on one of his employees, decides to engage in a practical joke which backfires, then back-backfires in his favor:

An oral surgeon who temporarily implanted fake boar tusks in his assistant’s mouth as a practical joke and got sued for it has ended up with the last laugh.

Dr. Robert Woo of Auburn had put the phony tusks in while the woman was under anesthesia for a different procedure. He took them out before she awoke, but first he shot photos that eventually made it around the office.

The employee, Tina Alberts, felt so humiliated when she saw the pictures that she quit and sued her boss.

Woo’s insurance company, Fireman’s Fund, refused to cover the claim, saying the practical joke was intentional and not a normal business activity his insurance policy covered, so Woo settled out of court. He agreed to pay Alberts $250,000, then sued his insurers. …

… In a sprightly 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that Woo’s practical joke was an integral, if odd, part of the assistant’s dental surgery and “conceivably” should trigger the professional liability coverage of his policy. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now I found this case interesting for a number of different reasons. First off is the question of whether an somewhat embarrassing picture is really worth $250,000. Who decides these things? For a picture of you cheating on your wife, maybe. Or evidence of you embezzling funds. Or pics of you committing murder. Most definitely. But for a practical joke picture of you with boars tusks? I dunno.

The next interesting aspect of this case is the question of whether or not this prank could be considered part of doing business. I suppose I would agree that, had he not been engaged in an actual bona fide procedure, the stunt would not have been possible. And if his modus operandi for running his business was “All slapstick, all the time!” then this mishap would even be a legitimate insurance claim. Either way, it would suck to have to be this guys insurer.

Last, but certainly not least, how did he end up with an award of $750,000 in damages in addition to the $250,000 he paid out to the distraught ex-employee? HOW? And more importantly, WHY? Does this make sense to anyone? How does the insurance companies earlier refusal to make good on a stupid prank boars tusk claim net him an additional $750,000? Am I missing something? From where I’m sitting, he should have been happy just to get back what he paid out to the ex-employee.

It seems like the law has become more of an alternative income source for some folk, than a vehicle of justice…

Prankster dentist wins in court – [Yahoo/AP]

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