Jury returns verdict for $3,743,671 financial award in medical malpractice case.
Eighteen months after being told by a dentist that a lower right molar should be extracted, plaintiff began to experience problems with the tooth. After two weeks of problems, plaintiff contacted a different dentist. Because he did not have a scheduled appointment, the dentist’s staff person told him to come in that morning and be “worked in.”
Plaintiff testified to feeling generally bad and having noticed slight swelling on the right side, along the jaw line. The
person who drove him to the dentist, testified that his gums were red, swollen and inflamed in the area surrounding the tooth. She also indicated that she had noticed swelling in plaintiff’s jaw.
The dentist (defendant) admitted to conducting a perfunctory examination, with an ex-ray that indicated to him that there was no infection present beyond the tooth itself. The tooth was extracted with no difficulties. A dental assistant noted that during the procedure the plaintiff became quite cold and she covered him with a blanket. Defense witnesses testified that a low temperature was maintained in the office to offset the heat from the lights in the operative areas, and that it was not uncommon to give patients a blanket.
The dentist sent the plaintiff home with no medication. The note made by the dentist in the plaintiff’s record indicated nothing about an infection or about swelling. After several hours, plaintiff called the dentist’s office for a prescription to help with his extreme pain. The dentist’s staff handled the request, calling in a prescription for Darvocet. No other medication was prescribed, including an antibiotic. Plaintiff filled the prescription and began taking it.
Over the next few days, plaintiff’s condition deteriorated. When attempting to call defendant, he inadvertently called his prior dentist. This dentist prescribed an antibiotic and a different pain medication. Plaintiff filled prescriptions and began taking the new medication. Upon realizing the next morning that he had called the wrong dentist, he called defendant’s office. He was instructed to come to the office the same day. Defendant dentist’s note in his record indicated “increased” swelling, soreness upon swallowing, and fluid from the extraction site. Plaintiff was sent home with a prescription for a new antibiotic and told to call the office later that day.
On that evening plaintiff noticed a bad taste in his mouth. He had a friend take him to the local hospital. Doctors determined very quickly that plaintiff had developed a serious infection and transferred him to a larger hospital. Plaintiff underwent extensive surgery over the next few days. The infection eventually spread to his throat and chest. Just seven days after his last visit to the dentist, he developed necrotizing fasciitis. This is an uncommon and virulent “flesh-eating” infection that proves fatal in about 40 percent of cases.
After a two-month hospitalization, of which the plaintiff has no recollection, he underwent numerous debridement procedures, skin grafts, and insertion of a feeding tube. The feeding tube became permanent, and although plaintiff survived, he was permanently disabled, unable to return to his career, and limited in his daily activities.
During the six-day trial, plaintiff’s infectious disease expert testified that had an antibiotic been prescribed and taken within 48 hours of the extraction, the infection would have been treated and neutralized before further infection could develop. After 48 hours, the expert testified, an oral antibiotic would have been inadequate. No expert witness could deny that the infection began in plaintiff’s infected tooth.
The jury also learned of a “memorandum” the defendant wrote approximately one year after providing a deposition in the case. In it, he denied that the plaintiff had facial swelling at the time of the extraction. In the memorandum, he indicated that he could not remember details of the plaintiff’s first visit. At the end of the trial, the jury deliberated for 3 hours and returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $3,743,671.
Medical malpractice can result in great and permanent harm to patients. When medical malpractice is suspected, it is important to see a trusted attorney who can initially assess the case and advise you of your options. If you or a loved one has been harmed due to medical malpractice, and through no fault of your own, call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C. We are here to help, and we are always on your side.