On January 3, 2013, the defendant oral surgeon undertook to perform an extraction of an impacted first molar, along with remaining wisdom teeth. At age 32, the patient was already old for the procedure, and was asymptomatic, but he had been advised by his general dentist to have an oral surgery consultation on three separate occasions. The procedure was high risk due to the patient’s age and contraindicated due to the intimate proximity of the first molar tooth root to the inferior alveolar nerve. In trying to extract the roots of the first molar, the oral surgeon caused a traumatic tear injury to the inferior alveolar nerve. The patient suffers from a disabling traumatic trigeminal neuropathy with significant allodynia requiring 23 pills/day to knock his pain level down from 10/10 to 7/10. He has tried everything to be cured of his injury, including neurrorhaphy, attempted implantation of a nerve stimulator and a brain surgery, but nothing has helped. Despite all this, he has a wonderful attitude and made a fantastic and deserving witness. His past medical bills were approximately $309,000 and future medical expenses projected to be approximately $1.2M. The jury deliberated more than nine hours over two days before returning a verdict for plaintiff of $1,879,721.00 (One million eight hundred seventy-nine thousand seven hundred and twenty-one dollars). Before trial, we tried to settle the case at mediation, but the oral surgeon’s insurance company only offered $125,000.
Our client was a sixty-three-year-old male professional. He was referred by his general dentist to an oral specialist to assess and treat an oral lesion with an appearance consistent with potential cancer. The oral specialist assumed that the oral lesion was not cancerous but only benign periodontal disease. Over the course of 17 months, the oral specialist never performed any type of tissue biopsy, choosing instead to prescribe approximately 12 courses of antibiotics and 9 courses of pain medication, and performing multiple debridement procedures and extractions. The lesion did not heal, and, upon the patient’s insistence, he was eventually referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy. The oral surgeon immediately performed a biopsy of the lesion, and pathologic examination determined that it was oral cancer. A work-up found that his cancer had spread throughout his body leading to a diagnosis of Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma. He underwent jaw surgery bilaterally to remove the invasive tumor, and required a fibulectomy to rebuild the jaw. Thereafter, he underwent radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. He could not undertake nutrition by mouth. He had to live with a feeding tube and a PICC line. He could not return to work and suffered recurrence of his metastatic oral cancer requiring additional chemotherapy and radiation, with a poor prognosis. The case settled at mediation following the disclosure of experts.
On June 18, 2015, the defendant general dentist performed an unnecessary root canal retreatment procedure on a lower molar tooth of a woman in her mid-50’s. After the defendant perforated outside the root of the tooth, he negligently injected a disinfectant caustic chemical known as calcium hydroxide into the inferior alveolar nerve canal. The inferior alveolar nerve was penetrated and affected by the chemical and began sending pain signals.
Our client required surgery to attempt removal of the neurotoxic chemical. However, the subsequent treating oral surgeon could not safely remove all of the calcium hydroxide overfill from her inferior alveolar nerve, which was damaged the width of three teeth.
The patient has persistent pain and numbness as permanent sequelae of the gross overfill of calcium hydroxide. Her pain is made worse during exercise or exposure to cold windy weather. This is a significant loss for her because she had been a highly competitive athlete her entire life and was actively competing up to the point of her injury.
Her past medical specials were approximately $40,000, and her future medical expenses projected to be approximately $300,000.
Defendants admitted liability shortly before trial. Despite that, the insurance company’s highest offer was $90,000. The jury deliberated for four hours over two days before returning a verdict for $1,500,000.
When our client was 13 years-old, she went to see her dentist about some stubborn baby teeth. The dentist informed her that the teeth would not exfoliate on their own and recommended extraction by an oral surgeon. The dentist’s staff member filled out the paperwork incorrectly. Instead of requesting extraction of the baby teeth, the permanent adult first molars were marked on the referral form and radiograph. The oral surgeon then removed all four of the patient’s permanent first molars. These teeth should not have been removed. They are important to the occlusion and used as anchors for regular orthodontic treatment. As a result of the extractions of her adult teeth, she had large gaps between her teeth. She has required five years of orthodontic treatment and will require future implants. The case was tried for seven days against the dentist, practice, and oral surgeon, and settled while the jury was out. The judge dismissed the jurors, with thanks for their role in enabling the parties to settle. Counsel for the parties encountered jurors in the parking lot afterwards and learned that the jury had been almost finished with deliberations. The settlement was approximately 12% less than the principal amount of the verdict would have been.
Michele Bartoli Cain tried the case of Stephen Chinn v. Richard Fiorucci to a three hundred thousand dollar ($300,000) jury verdict.
The case involved a nerve injury resulting from negligence of an oral surgeon in undertaking a wisdom tooth extraction.
Defendants appealed the verdict.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled for Chinn and affirmed the verdict in a unanimous decision rendered October 31, 2014. Read it here.