January 14, 2013
305-670-1101 Ext. 1023
TAMPA, Florida – Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., trial attorneys Peter J. Molinelli and Juan Carlos Garcia, both partners in the Tampa office received a defense verdict on behalf of a dentist in a case alleging that the defendant’s treatment approach was negligent, causing the plaintiff to experience pain and suffering.
Plaintiff visited defendant’s office complaining of pain in the lower left side of her mouth. After initial examination, the dentist recommended root canal and prescribed pretreatment antibiotics. Following the procedure, the patient returned to the dentist’s office on an emergency basis with pain and swelling under the chin. The dentist noted “possible Ludwig’s Angina” on the patient’s medical chart but indicated breathing was normal. He prescribed other antibiotics and made a referral request to her primary care physician since the patient also complained of Lymph Nodes swelling in the chest. The patient was instructed to seek hospital emergency care should she experience breathing difficulties.
Follow up phone calls from the dentist indicate the patient progressed with antibiotics as fever and aches were gone but was still swollen and sore. Two days later, the patient was admitted to the hospital for abscess and Ludwig’s Angina. During an eight-day stay at the hospital, she had intravenous treatment followed by surgery performed for drainage and a tracheotomy.
At trial, the plaintiff’s experts alleged that the defendant violated the standard of care in several respects. Failure to diagnose and treat; specifically failure to recommend emergency referral for treatment of Ludwig’s Angina or to call 911 since this condition is notorious for its aggressiveness, produces a rapid progression to block airway, and has a high mortality rate when not timely treated.
The defense expert – an ear, nose, and throat and dental specialist – cited there was no departure from the standard of care. The defense argued it was an infection caused by the plaintiff’s own negligence in not taking the prescribed antibiotics prior to the root canal procedure. In its response to the lack of referral claim, the defense used its notes to supplement their actions regarding the proper referrals made.
A motion for a directed verdict was made after the plaintiffs rested their case, which the judge reserved ruling on until the jury reached a verdict. In less than one hour, the jury reached a defense verdict. They concluded that during the trial the plaintiff provided inconsistent testimony on numerous occasions: regarding her symptoms following the root canal procedure and prior to hospitalization, about self-medicating prior to receiving root canal work and subsequent dental care, as well as other inconsistencies all of which negatively influenced the jury. The plaintiffs also failed to prove a causal connection between the conditions occurring during the emergency doctor’s office visit and the need for subsequent surgery.