The Mahoney Law Firm recently obtained the largest jury verdict in a dental malpractice case in Colorado history. The verdict was for $2 million dollars in a case where the defendant never made any offer.
In October of 2013 our client underwent a dental procedure for treatment of recurrent decay around and under an existing crown. The dentist removed the crown and the post (which is used to provide stability to the crown) came out of the molar with the crown. Instead of re-using the old post hole into which to place a new post, the dentist drilled a new post hole next to the old post hole. Rather than following the path of the old post hole, which followed the root canal down the center of the root, the dentist drilled off-axis at an angle. The dentist asserted he could not use the old post hole because the new post he was using was too narrow and he could not obtain retention in the old post hole. The evidence showed instead of drilling a new post hole off-axis, all he had to do was utilize a wider post which would have been retentive in the old post hole.
As a result of drilling off-axis at an angle, the risk of perforating the wall of the tooth was increased dramatically, which is what happened in this case. The dentist placed the new post into the new post hole, and because of the perforation, the tip of the new post was seated in the bone (maxilla). A post-op X-Ray was suspicious for a perforation, however the dentist did not further investigate with additional X-Rays. The perforation increased dramatically the risk of infection.
Care continued for several months during which time our client complained of pain and swelling. The dentist attributed it all to irritation from the new crown. The dentist further claimed two months after the perforation he realized he had perforated the tooth, however his chart notes said nothing to this fact; only that he thought there might be a crack in the tooth. A somewhat loose referral to an endodontist was made but there was no apparent urgency. Testimony was that a perforation presented an urgent situation because it provided a direct access from the tooth into the bone where the blood stream was and the risk of infection was greatly increased. Ultimately our client did see an endodontist three months after the perforation. The endodontist confirmed the perforation and immediately extracted the tooth.
Within a month of the extraction our client began experiencing symptoms consistent with an infection and she ended up at Denver Health Medical Center. The doctors at Denver Health suspected she had endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart valve) and she was treated with a very powerful antibiotic, Gentamycin. While the Gentamycin is a good drug for treating suspected endocarditis, it has known significant side-effects. One of those side-effects is that it can cause vestibular damage. Unfortunately our client suffered permanent bilateral inner ear damage causing permanent vertigo. Our client, 63 years old, cannot walk without a cane, is very unsteady on her feet even with a cane, will never drive again, cannot read, cannot watch TV for more than 5-10 minutes at a time, and has difficulty with most activities of daily living.
The defense argued there was no negligence, and that all damages were the result of the alleged negligence of the infectious disease doctors at Denver Health in failing to recognize that the toxicity levels of the Gentamycin were getting dangerous a week or two into treatment, and failing to discontinue use of the drug.
The jury returned a verdict for $2 million. Judgment was entered against the dentist for $2.2 million. This is the biggest verdict and judgment against a dentist in Colorado history.
If you or a family member has been injured by a dentist, you may have a claim. Call us at 303-800-3168 or contact our law firm online to schedule your free initial consultation. We have decades of experience handling malpractice claims and know what steps to take for you.