Not many people enjoy going to the dentist, and practically no one enjoys getting their teeth pulled. But in cases of necessity, you expect your oral surgeon to pull the right tooth and correct the problem you may be experiencing. That did not happen for one dental patient, however. After an oral surgeon in New Jersey pulled the wrong tooth for his patient, the appellate court allowed the patient to testify to the doctor’s incompetence in the ensuing suit and trial and ruled that the patient could keep the $50,000 jury award as well.
Colon v. Robinson
The plaintiff, Lynnette Colon, went to her dentist for emergency treatment after suffering from a painful toothache. Colon was referred to oral surgeon Lealon Robinson. According to Colon’s claim, Robinson did not review her x-rays or examine her teeth, but simply extracted a tooth. Afterwards, Colon saw the tooth that had been pulled out, but she was not allowed to keep it.
Despite her surgery, Colon continued to suffer from toothaches, and she visited other dentists. A second extraction two months later removed the tooth next to the first missing one, which Colon claimed stopped the pain. However, because she had two teeth removed, Colon was left with a large gap in the upper right row of her teeth.
Colon sued several of the professionals involved in her care, including Robinson. She claimed Robinson had been negligent in pulling a tooth with no signs of decay without examining her mouth or x-rays. Colon provided testimony from a general dentist who claimed that Robinson had breached the standard of care.
The general dentist also testified that Colon would need a bridge, implants or dentures to correct the problem. Colon herself provided testimony that the tooth Robinson had pulled—which she had seen—did not appear “rotted and grossly decayed.” She also testified that Robinson was “incompetent.” Robinson objected to the testimonies from the general dentist and Colon. He argued that a general dentist could not offer expert testimony against an oral surgeon. Additionally, Robinson testified that he had performed an examination before extracting Colon’s tooth.
The jury ruled in favor of Colon and awarded her $20,000 for her pain and suffering and $30,000 to cover expenses for her future treatments. On appeal, the appellate judges upheld this award, finding no problem with Colon’s testimony that Robinson was incompetent. Her testimony regarding the status of the tooth Robinson pulled did not influence or prejudice the jury in a way that compromised the case.
Further, the appellate court ruled that the testimony of a general dentist, who has examined the x-rays and evidence of the case, can be used in cases involving specialized professionals within the field. Precedent set in a 1985 case, along with recent updates to expert testimony procedures, allowed Colon’s witness to provide an accurate assessment of the situation.
Your dentist should be providing you with quality care and helping ease your suffering and pain. When this does not happen, you need the help of one of our personal injury attorneys. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent clients who have been victims of negligence at the hands of a dentist or other professional. Contact an HCK attorney today for a consultation.