Saying thank you with a lawsuit

The SE Texas Record Apr. 17, 2010, 2:58am

No good deed goes unpunished, according to the saying.

The volunteer is berated for not devoting even more time to the cause; the whistleblower is fired for alerting superiors to a problem; the good samaritan is victimized by the person being helped.

Most of us have experienced this disheartening phenomenon at one time or another -– and maybe became less trusting or less generous. Everyday life abounds with instances of kindness repaid with unkindness.

After getting her teeth repaired for free at the Dental Hygiene Clinic of the Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT) in Beaumont four years ago, Marilyn Stern-Duhon expressed her appreciation by filing a lawsuit against the Institute two years later.

She claims she suffered permanent damage to her knee and lumbar spine after tripping over an electrical junction box at the base of the dental chair while dismounting mid-exam for a quick trip to the ladies' room.

Talk about biting the hand that fixes your teeth!

LIT bit back, filing a motion to dismiss the two-year-old suit. As part of the Texas state university system, the Institute enjoys sovereign immunity, argues Assistant Attorney General Jason Warner.

If that argument gets the case dismissed, the clinic will be able to continue offering dental services at discounted prices to students and the general public as part of LIT's Associate of Applied Science-Dental Hygiene program.

On the other hand, if a judgment is rendered against LIT, the continued existence of its dental clinic may be threatened. Other people hoping to get fillings, crowns, root canals and extractions may not be as fortunate as Stern-Duhon was to have access to its services -– other people equally in need of discount dental care, and considerably more grateful.

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