So when the team was scheduled for a one-week summer training session at RAMS All Star Cheering in Hackensack, Amodeo was raring to go.
But at the camp, she was injured.
“Another cheerleader, called a flyer, elbowed her in the mouth when she was doing her stunt, causing her front tooth to be pushed back to the roof of her mouth,” said Amodeo’s mother, Kristie Jankowski. “She needed immediate oral surgery to save the tooth.”
The injury was only two short months after Amodeo’s braces, which she had worn for six years, had finally come off.
Eight days after the injury, on Aug. 28, Amodeo had a root canal. She had two more the next day.
Jankowski, a single mom, didn’t have dental insurance. The insurance policy held by the school — Summit High School — was going to pay much of the cost, but Jankowski said she would be responsible for a portion.
Jankowski said she decided to call RAMS, thinking the cheer facility’s insurance would pay the difference.
That was on Sept. 6, 2012, she said.
In late September, Amodeo had three permanent fillings added to the root canals, and Jankowski’s out-of-pocket costs grew.
Jankowski said she kept trying to reach RAMS, but no one responded.
In the weeks that followed, Amodeo’s mouth pain continued, her mother said. In November, Amodeo visited her orthodontist.
“He told her she needed to be fitted for a mouth guard so she wouldn’t grind her teeth while she is sleeping, which was causing more pain,” Jankowski said.
Then Amodeo returned to the endodontist on Nov. 11, and the endodonist said Amodeo needed yet another root canal.
“Her teeth looked beautiful until the injury,” Jankowski said. “Now her front tooth is a different size and color than the others. She was told that in the future she will need cosmetic surgery to correct this.”
The endodontist said Amodeo needed to be pain-free and without further root canals for two years before cosmetic work could be considered, Jankowski said.
Amodeo, in the meantime, went back to cheering and became a team captain.
“Even with her mouth injury she went to every practice, even if she couldn’t participate. She sat and watched,” her mother said. “At school games, she participated in cheering, but not in the stunting. She could not chance any more injury to her mouth.”
The dental bills kept coming, and Jankowski said she kept trying to reach RAMS, without success.
In April 2013, she said she called Trenton to see if the state could reveal whether or not RAMS carried any insurance.
The state said it didn’t know, she said.
In May, she consulted with an attorney who suggested Jankowski write a letter to RAMS, and that she also try to see the owners in person at the facility.
Jankowski wrote a letter asking RAMS for its insurance information. She said she mailed it — both a regular and a certified copy — on June 12, 2013.
According to postal records, the carrier attempted to deliver the certified copy on June 12, June 19 and June 29, but it was returned to Jankowski with an “unclaimed” stamp on it.
Jankowski next turned to the Summit school district’s business manager, asking for insurance information or a copy of a certificate of insurance for RAMS. The school said it didn’t have one, Jankowski said.
“I don’t understand how the school can send our children to any facility without requesting a certificate of insurance,” she said. A school official said unless it’s a contracted trip approved by the board of education, they don’t ask for a certificate of insurance, Jankowski said.
Jankowski also asked the school for a copy of whatever permission slip or waiver she signed for her daughter to attend the cheer camp, but the school couldn’t produce one.
She continued to make payments on the dental bills, records show.
Then on Oct. 8, 2013, Jankowski’s parents tried to help. They visited RAMS to see what they could learn.
“When they arrived, they asked to speak to the owner or to someone who can supply them with their insurance information,” Jankowski said. “They were told that the owner would have that information and that she was expected in at about 6 p.m. and she would call me that evening. She never did.”
In April, 2014, Amodeo’s tooth pain kicked up again, and she returned to the endodontist, her mother said. The doc recommended they continue to monitor the tooth, and said more evaluations would be necessary before deciding on future treatment.
Jankowski said she doesn’t have an estimate for the future work her daughter will need, but it’s expected to be thousands of dollars. To date, after the school’s insurance paid its part, Jankowski has shelled out more than $2,000.
She said she wants RAMS to take some responsibility and give her its insurance information.
“This is an ongoing issue and we don’t know what the outcome will be, but we do know that Ashley will need cosmetic surgery and this is very expensive,” she said. “I have been trying for a year-and-a-half to obtain this information and I’m exhausted from trying. I just can’t understand why they will not return any of my calls or sign for the certified letter,” she said.
We reviewed Jankowski’s paperwork, including the bills, the school’s insurance information and the letter Jankowski sent to RAMS.
We left a message for an owner at RAMS on July 7, but no one returned our calls.
In the meantime, we asked the state’s Division of Banking and Insurance if companies like this one were required by the state to have insurance.
Turns out there is no mandatory insurance requirement in state law for this kind of business, DOBI said.
We next turned to the school.
Summit superintendent Nathan Parker said in an email that the incident was promptly reported to its insurance carrier.
Then, he added, “Please know that the activity was not a school sponsored event.”
Interesting. Jankowski said the school’s cheerleading coach said the week-long camp, which the team also did in 2011, was mandatory. Sounds school-sponsored to us.
We posed the question to Parker.
“This camp was not required or sponsored by the Summit Public Schools,” he wrote in an email. “We have no relationship or agreement with RAMS.”
We again called RAMS on July 15, but it rang only as a fax machine. Then we called the second number listed on the company’s website, and the woman who answered said we had the wrong number. We called again, and a machine picked up. After leaving a message, we sent a fax to the first number, asking the owners to call.
No one responded to the fax, so the next day we called again. And again.
In brief, repeated attempts to reach the owner were unsuccessful.
Jankowski said that’s the same kind of treatment she received when trying to reach RAMS.
“I’m not looking to make money. I just want to have her bills paid and for her to have her perfect teeth back,” Jankowski said. “She would have been better off breaking a nose or an arm. It would be set and done, but this isn’t going to end.”
Looks like Jankowski’s only option will be to sue RAMS, a step she didn’t want to take.
We’ll let you know what happens.