By its unpublished decision dated March 27, 2015, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a $2,300,035.00 verdict in a New Jersey dental malpractice case, determining that the verdict was not excessive in light of the substantial permanent injuries sustained and the medical expenses incurred under the circumstances of the case, and also finding that the trial judge had not committed reversible error with regard to his pre-trial, trial, and post-trial evidentiary rulings.
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff was 25-years-old when her family doctor suggested in 2007 that it might be the appropriate time to have her wisdom teeth extracted. The plaintiff first consulted with the defendant dentist on March 5, 2007. On April 13, 2007, the defendant dentist extracted the plaintiff’s four wisdom teeth, after which she woke up from anesthesia and immediately felt excruciating pain and began to scream (the plaintiff had no symptoms prior to her extractions).
During her post-extraction visit to the defendant dentist three days later, the plaintiff complained that she could not feel her tongue, the floor of her mouth, or her gum line, as well as having a shooting pain from the back of the right side of her mouth through her tongue. The numbness and her pain caused her to have problems swallowing, speaking, and drooling on the right side of her mouth.
The plaintiff consulted with several dentists and other medical professionals regarding her symptoms and subsequently had surgery performed on September 13, 2007 to repair damage done to her right lingual nerve during the original dental extraction surgery (the second surgery found a 1 cm gap between the proximal segment of the right lingual nerve and the distal segment of the right lingual nerve). Despite the surgery to repair and reconnect the lingual nerve, the plaintiff continued to experience the same difficulties she had before the surgery, including drooling and not being able to stop liquids from coming out of the right side of her mouth, pain in her gums and tongue, and not feeling sensations of cold or hot liquids. The plaintiff also had a painful neuroma that had grown in her mouth.
Over the course of several years, her symptoms, including her pain, became worse. By the time her dental malpractice case came to trial in October 2011, the plaintiff had decided to not have further surgery and was attempting to manage her pain and lifestyle limitations through medication. All of the parties’ expert physicians who examined and testified as to the plaintiff’s condition agreed that she will continue to have symptoms, including pain, throughout her life.
In light of the above, the Appellate Court stated, “Here, the trial judge found the jury’s award was “substantiated by the evidence.” He found plaintiff’s testimony credible and also noted the jurors both heard and accepted plaintiff’s account of how this injury negatively affected the quality of her life on a daily basis … We discern no legal basis to disturb the trial judge’s carefully considered analysis. Defendant’s remaining arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion.” The Appellate Court therefore affirmed the jury’s verdict and the trial court’s decisions.
Source Sheets v. Siegler, D.D.S., et al., Docket No. A-0.
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