GILLETTE, Presiding Judge.
Defendant and third-party plaintiff Parthena Harvey appeals from an order dismissing her third party complaint against third-party defendant (hereafter
Third-party plaintiff contracted with defendant, a dentist, to have a dental bridge constructed and attached to her natural teeth. The total cost of inserting the bridge was $946. According to Harvey, defendant told her that, once the bridge was attached to her teeth, it would be permanent. A short time after the bridge was inserted, Harvey experienced problems with it falling out. Defendant replaced the bridge on two occasions. The third time the bridge fell out Harvey was getting off a bus and the bridge was stepped on by another passenger. Following this incident she did not return to defendant and refused to make any further payments to him. At the time she still owed defendant $427.74 for the work he had done.
Defendant assigned Harvey's account to Investigators, Inc., a collection agency. Thereafter, Investigators filed this action against Harvey. In her answer to Investigators' complaint, Harvey alleged lack of consideration and counterclaimed for breach of warranty and violation of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (Act) on the part of defendant Lewis, Investigators' assignor. Harvey also brought a third-party complaint against defendant Lewis re-asserting the substance of her counterclaims against Investigators. During the course of the trial the trial court dismissed, upon motion by Investigators and defendant Lewis, defendant and third-party plaintiff's counterclaims against Investigators and her claims against defendant Lewis. In the trial court's view, an action for breach of warranty and for violation of the Act could not be maintained against the defendant because, as a dentist, he is a professional and not a merchant nor involved in a business. The case was submitted to the jury on the issue of lack of consideration alone. The jury returned a verdict for Harvey as defendant in the action brought by Investigators.
On appeal, the only issue we are asked to decide is whether or not the Unlawful Trade Practices Act applies to dentists.
Third-party plaintiff's complaint states, in pertinent part, that:
Under the Act an individual may bring an action against a person who, in the
A person is defined by the Act as
The Act applies only to consumer transactions; it does not regulate commercial transactions. Denson v. Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo, Inc., 279 Or. 85, 90, n. 4, 566 P.2d 1177 (1977); Graham v. Kold Kist Beverage Ice, Inc., 43 Or.App. 1037, 1040, 607 P.2d 759 (1979). Trade and commerce is defined as
"Real estate, goods or services" means
It is clear that defendant Lewis, as a dentist, is a person offering goods or services for personal and family use to the people of this state. He is therefore engaged in the course of trade or commerce as defined by the Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The real dispute between the parties is whether or not Lewis is, as a professional, engaged in a "business, vocation, or occupation" and whether, because the profession of dentistry is a regulated profession, it is excluded from the Act's coverage.
We turn first to the words "business, vocation or occupation." Webster's New International Dictionary (3d ed 1976) defines "business" as
"Vocation" is defined as
It is a well settled rule of statutory construction that the words used in a statute are to be given their plain or ordinary meaning. Davis v. Wasco IED, 286 Or. 261, 266, 593 P.2d 1152 (1979). On that basis, we conclude that a dentist who regularly offers his services to the public is engaged in a "business, vocation or occupation" as those terms are commonly understood.
It is true, as defendant points out, that the practice of dentistry is a closely regulated profession. See, generally, ORS ch. 679. A state board, the Board of Dental Examiners, is responsible for regulating the profession. Only those persons who meet certain specified qualifications are licensed as dentists. ORS 679.060. After an individual is licensed, the individual is subject to discipline by the Board for misbehavior, including unprofessional conduct or gross ignorance, incompetence or inefficiency in the profession. ORS 679.140(1)(e). Among the disciplinary alternatives available to the Board are suspension or revocation of an individual's license to practice. ORS 679.140(5). The purpose of this regulatory legislation is to insure that only qualified persons are licensed and practicing as dentists. This serves to protect the integrity of the profession as well as the public.
The purpose of the Act is to protect the consumer from certain acts by persons engaged in the practice of offering or providing services or goods to the public. While it prohibits certain behavior, it does not attempt to supervise, regulate or limit those persons who may engage in a particular business, vocation or occupation. Its main focus is to provide redress for consumers who have suffered "an ascertainable loss of money or property" because of the action of a person in providing services or goods for that consumer's use. See ORS 646.638.
Given the different focus of these two pieces of legislation, we do not agree that, because dentistry is a regulated profession, no activities of dentists can ever fall within the scope of the Act. The mere fact that the state Board closely supervises the profession does not lead to the conclusion that consumers who are measurably damaged by a dentist's actions are prohibited from suing under the Act. To allow such actions will in no way conflict with the Board's power or interfere with the regulation of dentistry; to prohibit them would be ignoring the plain language and purpose of the Act. Therefore, third-party plaintiff's complaint against defendant Lewis was improperly dismissed.
Reversed and remanded.
This court, on its own motion, raised a question prior to oral argument concerning the appealability of the order dismissing the third-party plaintiff's complaint against defendant Lewis. After further examination, we conclude that the order is appealable.