What can I do if a dentist did work pro bono and later billed me for it?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can I do if a dentist did work pro bono and later billed me for it?

A couple months ago I had just gotten married. My wife’s brother is a dentist and he was kind enough to do some small cosmetic dental work free of charge, covering whatever my insurance did not. Now, a couple months later, my wife and I have chosen to end our marriage. After making it public, his dental office billed me in full for the work that had been previously done. Is this allowed? Is there anything that can be done?

Asked on January 31, 2017 under Business Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if he agreed to do the work for free, he cannot charge for it now. Practically, if you have something in writing (including email or text messages) confirming this, you will have a good case--it will be difficult for him to legally charge you in the face of written evidence. But if you don't have written confirmation, you may have trouble--since it is unusual for a dentist to not charge, if it comes down to his word vs. yours (if he is prepared to lie and claim there was no agreement to not charge), it may be difficult for you to convince a court (if he sues you) that the dentist had agreed to work for free. Without written back-up, you may wish to pay him for the work, since if it ends up in  court, you will likely have a less than even chance of winning.

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