After a four-day trial that began on August 18, 2014, it took a dental malpractice jury only 40 minutes to return its $2.8 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the employer of a dentist who allegedly provided dental services that fell below the standard of care, thereby causing the plaintiff to suffer teeth that fell out, bleeding gums, and difficulty eating.
The plaintiff alleged that she paid in excess of $20,000 to the dentist who proposed unnecessary dental treatment on healthy teeth (including placing a crown on a healthy front tooth that repeatedly fell out), failed to properly treat problems with other teeth, and provided her with more than 12 crowns that were improperly fitted.
The dentist subsequently left the dental practice without completing the necessary dental work, and his employer failed to provide the needed dental services. The plaintiff had to seek dental care from another dentist, who had to replace the crowns and extract her lower molars. The dentist was originally named as a defendant but was later dismissed from the dental malpractice lawsuit after he settled with the plaintiff.
The straight-forward dental malpractice case took an unusual turn when the plaintiff’s lawyer learned during the litigation that the dentist had allegedly tested positive for Valium in a pre-employment drug screening, the dentist had allegedly overdosed on Fentanyl after only five weeks working for his employer, and that the dentist allegedly used nitrous oxide that was intended for patients. In light of such revelations, the plaintiff’s dental malpractice lawsuit was amended to state additional claims against the employer, for negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention of the dentist.
Due to the unusual circumstances of the dental malpractice case, the plaintiff’s claims were trifurcated for trial: the first phase focused on whether the dentist had committed dental malpractice and the amount of the plaintiff’s compensatory damages (the dentist’s alleged drug abuse would not be relevant to the issues in the first phase). The second phase would address the negligent hiring, supervision, and retention claims (the dentist’s alleged drug abuse would be relevant to those claims). The third phase would determine if punitive damages should be awarded and the amount of same, if any. Nonetheless, after the jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory damages in the amount of $2.8 million at the conclusion of the first phase of trial, the parties agreed to settle the remaining claims for an undisclosed sum.
The dental malpractice claims were further complicated because the plaintiff was paying cash for the dental services that she received from the dentist (she was offered a 10% discount if she paid in cash) and the dentist failed to keep appropriate dental and payment records, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer. The defendant employer alleged that the plaintiff did not pay as much as she claimed, that the plaintiff had missed some of her appointments, that there was no evidence that the dentist was under the influence of drugs at the time he provided services to the plaintiff, and that the plaintiff’s alleged dental injuries were due to pre-existing conditions.
If you are the victim of possible dental malpractice in the United States, you should promptly consult with a local dental malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your dental malpractice claim for you and represent you in a dental malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
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