THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Brace yourself: Could eBayed device rescue finances?

When otherwise reasonable people find themselves embroiled in consumer disputes, it can bring out the worst in them– pettiness, stubbornness and hostility in ample supply.

But just as often these disputes bring out the best in people– forgiveness, humor, and honest introspection. 

Dan Brown, you may recall, was the subject of a column early in the summer in which he disputed a $941 bill from Charlottesville dentist Dr. Scott Knierim, claiming the dental office had failed to file an insurance claim on his behalf ["Root of it: Dental bills put bite on credit," June 7]. Knierim's office, while unable to comment on Brown's case specifically, said that such disputes often result from the patient's inattention to his bills until too late.

Still, each side was willing to resolve the matter, and when I followed up on the case in June, it spurred a July meeting between Brown and Knierim's office manager for them to review– together– the paperwork and see if they could figure something out.

Brown says he resolved the issue with Dr. Knierim by paying about a third of the original amount, basically the fee for the services rendered, with all interest and late fees dropped. Brown says he is "satisfied with the outcome so far," although he still has the matter of a dinged credit report to clear up.

"Needless to say, in hindsight," Brown wrote me, "poor communication from both parties is at fault (yes, I'm willing to take some of the blame)."

That is the kind of admission Brown couldn't, or wouldn't, make in the heat of battle. He has moved on, though, without bitterness, by learning a good lesson from the experience.

Perhaps even more impressive has been Judy Adams, who broke her back in a car accident while on vacation in France, and her fiancée, Eddie Mikell, whose story I have been following ["Mon Dieu! Accident causes French disconnection," June 28]. Adams, as you may recall, spent about $13,400 on plane tickets and ambulance transport to return to the United States. Because of the condition of her back, doctors told her, she needed to remain flat during transport, which accounted for the expense.

But Southern Health, the administrator of UVA's health insurance plan, denied Adams' claims on the grounds that it was not medically necessary that she remain flat.

While Adams is still pursuing her appeals through the system, she says she's feeling better. She has shed her custom-made back brace and has returned part time to her job at the McIntire School at UVA. Adams says her coworkers there have been following her story, and "It has been a real eye-opener for them."

To add insult to injury, they say, their friends who were also injured on the trip, Tom and Pat Ganaway, have had their expenses completely covered by their insurer, Anthem.

Given all that has happened to them, many might say that Adams and Mikell have the right to feel ticked off. But despite the stress, they seem to have become somewhat resigned about the whole episode.

"As an attempt to re-coup some of the money, and this is a shot in the dark," Mikell wrote me. "We're going to try to auction Judy's French-made body brace on eBay. I realize it's not the brace that will sell this, but it should be the story that should, i.e., Southern Health, Air France, etc. I figure if a person can get $7,000 on eBay for some Michael Vick cards that got chewed up by her dog, maybe we can get something for the brace."

[This story appeared in the Hook's print edition with the incorrect last name for Judy Adams. It hass been corrected in this online edition–editor.]