SACRAMENTO (CN) - A Californian holding himself out as a licensed doctor recommends treatments costing thousands of dollars before taking any diagnostic tests, then collects full payment through a processing center before providing services, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Barbara M. Price sued James Martin D.PSc., Chronic Health Solutions and HC Processing Center, claiming she was duped into paying $3,000 for services Martin never provided.
Martin, of Yolo County, advertises himself on TV and the Internet as a doctor who treats type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, neuropathy and chronic pain, according to the lawsuit.
His website, cited in the lawsuit and checked this morning (Friday), states that he is "currently in the process of working toward Board Certified Functional Neurologist with the top Neurologist in the Country and has focused on metabolic medicine for 12 years."
Martin's home Internet page identifies him as a D.PSc., without identifying precisely what the letters stand for. Apparently, it means Diplomat of Pastoral Science.
In a Google search of D.PSc. this morning, four of the first 10 hits were for Martin and his Sacramento office. He identifies himself on his sites as a "thyroid specialist."
His website, cited in the lawsuit, claims: "Dr. Martin performs extremely comprehensive testing, comprehensive blood testing, stool analysis, inflammation testing, food sensitivity testing not typically performed by traditional medicine and insurance companies to uncover the causes to loss of proper health status and underlying reasons for many conditions like type 2 diabetes, auto immune thyroid conditions, vertigo, dizziness, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain, insomnia and a number of other health conditions."
Price, however, claims that Martin is not licensed to practice any of his advertised services in California and that he does not run a full body of tests, but gets his patients commit to treatment during their initial visit.
Martin "recommends treatment options even before the patient has taken the diagnostic tests, including blood tests, and he has reviewed the results," Price says in the lawsuit.
During Price's first and only visit to Martin, she claims, he offered her four treatment options, costing from $2,897 to $8,946. Despite the $6,000 range between options, Martin claimed that each of the treatments would be effective, she says.
Price, who is older than 65 and wanted to improve her health, says she thought she could trust Martin and agreed to pay him $3,084. Martin had her fill out a credit card application with HC Processing Center to finance the bill, she says in the complaint.
Price claims that HC Processing and Martin have an arrangement under which Martin has patients apply for a credit card with HC and HC then pays Martin's fee and charges the patients "exorbitant fees." She claims that she and the proposed class do not get legally required Truth in Lending Act disclosures about the process.
The day after her office visit, Price says, she got a phone call from Martin's office telling her they had given her the wrong laboratory paperwork and needed to deliver the correct papers.
Then two people who "did not appear professional" or look like "they worked at a doctor's office" showed up at her door, delivered some paperwork and had her sign more documents, Price says in the complaint.
Price says she "signed what was presented to her, as she was becoming frightened and simply wanted them to leave."
This made Price suspicious about Martin, so she called HC Processing and told them not to pay Martin, a request the company ignored, Price says in her complaint.
After Price's attorney informed HC Processing that Price did not receive any services from Martin and that she was questioning his license to practice medicine, HC placed her account in dispute status and told her she did not have to make any payments at that time, according to the complaint.
But a few months later - the day after Christmas - a rep with HC Processing called Price to tell her she owed a payment of $215 on the credit card. The rep told Price "not to hang up because he would just call back," she says in the complaint.
HC Processing never investigated Price's claims against Martin, but told her that her signed application and charge slip were sufficient to make her account valid, according to the complaint.
Price claims Martin and HC Processing violated California's financial elder abuse laws and that HC engaged in illegal debt collection practices.
Martin's website refers to him as Dr. James Martin D.PSc., and says that he "graduated in 1999" and has been in practice since December 2000. It does not state where he graduated from or what degree he earned.
A disclaimer at the very bottom of his principal home page states: "Dr. Martin practices SOLELY under his Pastoral Medical Association license TO MEMBERS ONLY offering members Functional Neurology and Metabolic Support privately, not publicly. He does NOT practice chiropractic. We do NOT treat cancer or any other diseases nor would we ever want to; our purpose is to assist people in helping THEIR body heal itself. Readers of this website must fully understand and agree to these facts and acknowledge ALL responsibility in reading all contents of information in this website."
The Pastoral Medical Association describes itself on its home Internet page as a "Member Share Network," and a "Private Ecclesiastical Association."
In its "About the PMA" section, the group says: "'Our real purpose is to help people get back to health the way God intended' / We are one big family working together to put the Almighty's messages for good health first!"
Price seeks class certification and actual, statutory and punitive damages for elder abuse and state and federal debt collection violations.
She is represented by Jim G. Price with the Delta Law Group in Brentwood.
Martin did not immediately return a request for comment.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.