On March 28, 2011, a Maryland 17-year-old high school junior went in for dental surgery to have her wisdom teeth extracted. Her brain was deprived of oxygen during the dental surgery which resulted in the teenager suffering a severe brain injury. The 17-year-old never awoke from the anesthesia after her dental surgery and she became comatose, resulting in her death ten days later.
Her distraught parents filed a dental malpractice case against the anesthesiologist who provided anesthesia services during the dental procedure, the oral surgeon, and their medical practices, alleging that they were negligent in failing to take necessary and timely steps to revive the 17-year-old when her heart rate slowed to a dangerous level that deprived her brain of oxygen.
The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed on November 30, 2011 and contained five counts of medical negligence and other causes of actions against the defendants, with each count seeking in excess of $30,000. The malpractice case was settled shortly before the scheduled March 28, 2013 settlement conference. The terms and amount(s) of the malpractice settlement are confidential and have not been disclosed. The dental malpractice lawsuit was formally dismissed on April 1, 2013. Had the case not settled, the jury trial was scheduled to begin on May 6, 2013 and ten days were set-aside on the court’s calendar for the trial.
One of the contentious issues that arose during the litigation was the defendants’ efforts to obtain the teenager’s mental health and other sensitive records and her parents’ efforts to preclude the defendants from referring to their daughter’s sensitive records in open court. The court attempted to address the parties’ concerns regarding the records by ordering that the records be produced by the custodians of the records directy to the judge for his private review of the documents.
The malpractice defendants had argued that the teenager may have had a pre-existing undiagnosed medical condition combined with a high level of anxiety and stress that either caused her death or was a contributing factor in her death. However, an autopsy determined that the teenager was healthy and had no significant medical history at the time of her death.
The defendant oral surgeon had years of professional experience and was well-known and well-respected as an oral surgeon in the community. He was reportedly emotionally distraught by his patient’s death and by the malpractice claims against him. The defendant oral surgeon and his dental practice were voluntarily dismissed from the medical malpractice lawsuit on January 11, 2013 (the terms of the dismissal were not reported). The teen’s parents hoped that their dental malpractice lawsuit would raise awareness regarding the risks of dental procedures.
Dental malpractice cases are relatively rare because dental negligence does not often result in severe injuries or death. However, dental malpractice injuries caused by events such as unnecessary multiple extractions of teeth or dental procedures that affect the health of the gums and underlying bones may cause dental patients to suffer much pain and discomfort, eating difficulties and resulting changes in overall health, and/or alteration in facial structures, all of which may result in substantial dental malpractice harms and substantial settlement or verdict amounts.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries or other harms due to possible dental negligence, you should promptly seek the advice of a dental malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your dental malpractice claim for you and file a dental malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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