Morrison Mahoney Partner Bob Gunning recently obtained a defense verdict in a dental malpractice action after a 6-day trial.
The plaintiff filed a dental malpractice action after undergoing four years of dental treatment to correct a pre-existing collapsed bite. The plaintiff further asserted that the defendant dentist was negligent in placing four dental implants and failing to diagnose bone loss, which resulted in the failure of two of the implants 4 years after they were placed. The plaintiff also alleged that there was a Lack of Informed Consent in that the dentist failed to advise her of other alternative treatment options. During discovery, the plaintiff alleged that the dentist had altered or changed her electronic dental records.
The dentist denied that any of her electronic dental records were altered or changed and during the trial explained that certain progress notes that were entered in a satellite office’s computer were not forwarded to the main server and when this was recognized the dental practice's IT professional moved those entries to the main server. However, the electronic dental records had a notation that the entries had been "modified." In defending the malpractice claim, our defense expert and implant specialist testified that the defendant dentist had properly placed the four implants and that alternative dental procedures were discussed (a fixed bridge) and would not have been appropriate as the plaintiff had already had a 4‑unit fixed bridge placed which had failed. The defense expert further testified that it was the plaintiff's pre-existing bruxing and grinding condition, which damaged not only the temporary crowns that had been placed to correct the plaintiff's bite but due to the plaintiff's non-compliant behavior in failing to wear the nightguard appliance caused two of the implants to fail. The plaintiff also failed to disclose to the defendant dentist that she had been undergoing screenings for osteoporosis, which may have further aggravated the pre-existing bruxing and grinding condition.
Although the claim involved the placement of implants, the plaintiff retained a general dentist who never placed implant and admitted on cross-examination that he was not an expert in implantology.
After deliberations, the jury returned a verdict (no cause) in favor of the dentist. It was clear that the plaintiff's claim that electronic dental records were altered had been rejected. The dentist had declined to consent to settle.