Two Patients of Corte Madera Chiropractor Seek Refunds in Small Claims Court
CALIFORNIA: Two former patients took a Corte Madera chiropractor to small claims court in late January, alleging false advertising and scare tactics and demanding refunds.
Chiropractor Donald Harte denied the allegations, calling the hearing a "malicious show."
Gertrude West of Larkspur said Harte lured her into his practice with false advertising, used scare tactics to get her to sign a long-term contract and refused to refund her money when her condition failed to improve.
Victoria Pollock-Grasso of Tiburon objected to Harte charging her a $559 administrative fee when she decided to stop receiving adjustments from him. Grasso said she stopped seeing Harte because an orthopedist she went to for a second opinion informed her she had degenerative disc disease in her cervical spine and that Harte’s manipulation of her neck could cause her to have a stroke.
Most of the hearing focused on West, who is seeking a full refund of the more than $6,000 she paid Harte since beginning treatments in March 2008. West, 76, said Harte attracted her into his care with a "misleading" ad that appeared in a local weekly newspaper. She said Harte also miscalculated what she owes him and overcharged her by $353.
In the ad, Harte stated that patients had come to him with a long list of symptoms. West was seeking relief from painful arthritic knees. A surgical partial replacement of one knee in 2005 had not improved her condition.
The California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which regulates chiropractors in California, notified Harte in 2004 that a similar ad violated state regulations and ordered him to stop using it. Harte responded by launching a counterattack against the board’s enforcement officers. He asserted the board was persecuting him and other "straight" chiropractors.
West said she took advantage of a "special offer" that Harte made to new patients. For $47, she received an examination, spinal X-ray and a "neurological scan."
West said Harte told her that the X-rays revealed severe spinal degeneration of her neck and low back.
"I see now that these statements were nothing but scare tactics designed to induce me to sign the contract," she said.
West said Harte told her he wouldn’t treat her unless she signed a long-term contract, so she paid $6,354 in advance for 100 visits. But when her knee pain failed to improve after 49 visits over four months, West decided to stop the treatments and requested a partial refund.
West said Harte refused, asserting that she violated a clause in her contract that requires "general adherence to the proposed schedule of care, and home care," because she interrupted her treatments with several weeks of vacation.
Marin Independent Journal