Dental Malpractice Includes Cosmetics

A jury in Bridgeport, CT, recently awarded just under $200,000 in damages to a woman who ended up with “horse teeth” after being promised a beautiful smile.

The dentist, Darren Martinez, of Stamford, CT, defended himself by stating that he couldn’t be guilty of malpractice if he hadn’t (sic physically) harmed the woman. The jury clearly disagreed, deliberating only two hours before awarding Marvalyn Foster, a newly licensed realtor, the sum of $196,880.50

The patient’s attorney, Richard T. Meehan Jr., points out that the woman “now faces two to five years of expensive dental treatment to give her what he had promised her — a beautiful smile.” (That seems a bit unlikely, but the jury apparently accepted it.)  He added that while he appreciated the dentist admitting to having made mistakes, that confession didn’t mitigate what happened to his 44 year old client’s smile.

“He told her he could give her a big, beautiful Hollywood celebrity smile by making a bridge from canine to canine, but when he finished the procedure she was shocked to see her three teeth on the tray next to the dental chair,” Meehan said. He claimed that one bridge Martinez had made for his client resembled horse teeth.

This case is sad, but the bridge could easily have been replaced, if that was the full extent of the problem. A few things that could have left the dentist in a more defensible position:

  1. Document all aspects thoroughly.
  2. Have the patient sign acknowledgement that teeth will be extracted, which ones, how many, etc., in order to perform the procedure.
  3. Define the subjective concepts so that a jury doesn’t have to determine if you’ve helped or harmed the patient’s appearance.
  4. Take Before and After Photos, to help defend your results.

As can be seen by this case, cosmetics do matter. The patient need not suffer physical harm for it to be rightly called malpractice. Needless to say, the harm done to the dentist by this case being announced in the newspapers won’t do much for his client list, so the $200k is far from the total financial cost that he will be incurring.

We don’t know who his insurance carrier was, but this also demonstrates the importance of a quality defense, which should have provided by most quality Medical Professional Malpractice carriers in Presidio’s repertoire.  Please, protect yourself properly. Presidio is an independent insurance broker, and we’re dedicated to providing you with the coverage and expert guidance you need. Give us a call for a free no-obligation evaluation of the protection your policy provides to you!

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