JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — If you pre-pay for a service then die before using it, should your family get a refund? The obvious answer is yes, but getting it was not that simple for a Johnston County woman.
The death of a loved one is difficult enough to deal with. Add to that financial issues and it can be overwhelming. For Michelle Lee, one refund check could have made a big difference. The problem was getting it.
Last October Lee's husband, Steve, died unexpectedly.
"He was fun. He was outgoing. He was a great father," she said.
Lee did not have the money to pay Steve's medical bills or to finish a room the couple had started renovating.
Part of the problem was Lee's husband pre-paid Smithfield dentist Dr. Kennon Woods $3,000 for dental work.
"He was getting his teeth cleaned, getting crowns, bridges -- anything he needed done, he was going to have it done," Lee said.
Steve had two appointments before he died. Lee called Woods to let him know what happened.
"The dentist called me and wanted to see me and the children. This was, like, two days after the funeral," she said.
When they did go, Lee said Woods questioned her about how she was going to use the money.
"The first thing I thought was 'Why? Why is it any of your concern?'" she said.
Lee said the dentist asked that she provide a death certificate and a letter from an attorney.
"So, he wrote up a letter and sent it off -- nothing," Lee said.
Lee and the attorney called Woods repeatedly.
In January, the attorney sent letter. There was still no response.
"The receptionist says 'He's not here' and 'They can't take a message,'" Lee said.
Lee called Five on Your Side for help.
"It's upsetting. It's tearing my stomach up," she said.
Five On Your Side called Woods and he handed out a certified check for $2,053 the next day. When asked why he did not return the money sooner, he would only say he "got bad advice from people."
Woods' attorney says his client never got the letters from Lee because they were sent to the wrong address. He also says his client never got any messages from Lee's attorney.
"It doesn't make sense," Lee said.
She is happy to get the cash to use for bills and maybe even to work on her living room. Lee says she was able to pay off all of her husband's outstanding medical bills.
According to Woods' attorney, $947 of the pre-paid amount was payment for procedures performed during Steve's two appointments included X-rays and a deep-root cleaning.
Woods has not provided Lee with an itemized statement.