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Call Kurtis Investigates: How Much Hospitals, Hotels Owe When They Lose Belongings

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A Rio Linda cancer patient says the hospital lost his teeth, prompting the Call Kurtis team to uncover a decades-old law that limits how much a hospital has to pay.

And it’s not enough to cover a replacement. Our investigation found the law hasn’t been updated since the 1970s.

Dudley Cornett is fighting Stage 4 cancer.

“Cancer in my neck,” he said.

Dudley was rushed to Kaiser in Roseville for heart problems.

The next morning, the top denture he says he left in a Kaiser cup with his name on it was gone.

“I was really mad because now I have to walk around public with no teeth,” said Dudley.

Dudley says Kaiser promised to pay to replace them but later said they’d only cover $1,000 and needed a receipt.

“I don’t think it’s right because if my dentures cost more than a thousand dollars, then I would have to pay out of my pocket,” said Dudley.

We uncovered that state law protects you when places like hospitals lose your stuff.

It dates back to the 1800s, initially created to protect miners who left belongings with innkeepers.

“Originally, the law was enacted in 1872,” said attorney Christopher Lee.

Lee says the law later included hospitals.

But it was last updated in 1979, maxing out how much a hospital has to pay at $1,000.

That was 33 years ago when the cost of a new home was $58,100 and the average monthly rent was $280. The median income was $17,500.

“Patients rights group have to trot over to the Legislature and get the law changed,” said Lee.

Kaiser wouldn’t discuss this case with us, citing privacy laws, but confirmed if it was their fault, they’d only cover up to $1,000 based on the law.

If Dudley went through his own insurance, he’d have to pay a $770 co-pay for a new denture.

After we got involved, instead of waiting for a receipt, Kaiser cut him a check for $770 to cover that cost.

“Made me feel great. At least now everybody when I see them, they don’t just see a mouth full of gums,” said Dudley.

And until the law is updated?

“If you’re going into a hospital, do not take valuables,” said Lee.

We reached out to the Assembly’s Health Committee at the Capitol and spoke with Assembly member Bill Monning about this old law.

He says he’ll look into possibly raising that $1,000 limit.

READ: Kaiser’s Full Statement

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