Plaintiff was a 36 year old office worker who underwent the surgical removal of her asymptomatic erupted lower right wisdom tooth by the defendant general dentist, during the course of which surgery her lingual nerve was transected, leaving her with a permanent right lingual nerve numbness and right-sided taste disturbance.
At deposition, the defendant testified that he saw the lingual nerve during his retraction of a lingual mucoperiosteal flap which he had developed so that he could remove bone from the lingual surface of the tooth, and that “the nerve came up and hit the bur.” There was never a discussion of risks of the proposed surgery nor was there a signed consent form. The dentist’s records made no reference to the transection of the nerve by the bur and he never told this to the patient. For many months the patient called the defendant’s office and he avoided her.
Nearly a year after the extraction the plaintiff saw an oral surgeon who told her that her nerve injury was probably caused by the anesthetic injection. Plaintiff faulted the defendant for having performed unnecessary surgery, lack of informed consent, negligent surgery and failure to monitor and refer her timely to a microsurgeon for consultation about possible repair surgery.
The case settled for $140,000.00. Plaintiff’s Experts: John M. Gregg, D.D.S., Ph.D., oral and maxillofacial surgery and microsurgery, Blacksburg, VA.; Richard R. Souviron, D.D.S., general dentist, Coral Gables, FL; Marlon Branitz D.D.S., oral and maxillofacial surgery, Coral Springs, FL. Defendant’s Experts: Fred Alfele, D.D.S., oral and maxillofacial surgery, West Palm Beach, FL; Roger Froelich, D.D.S., oral and maxillofacial surgery, West Palm Beach, FL. Palm Beach County (FL) Circuit Court Case No. 95-4841 AH.
Kenneth P. Liroff, D.D.S., J.D., of the Dental Law Group, Ft. Lauderdale, FL represented the plaintiff. Edwin E. Mortell, III, Esq., Peterson, Bernard, et al., West Palm Beach, FL for the defendant.