The plaintiff/patient was born without incisors, and she consulted with her long-term treating dentist about resolving this situation. The defendant dentist contended that dental implants were the solution. The first implant was installed without incident by the defendant’s colleague. As the defendant dentist was installing an implant on the other side, a screw broke off. One part of the screw fell into the defendant’s hand. The other half of the screw remained in the plaintiff’s mouth. However, the dentist could not remove the screw. The plaintiff treated with the defendant thereafter, and continued to report irritation and pain in her mouth. The defendant failed to remove the screw fragment. She later consulted with another dentist who took an X-ray and was able to identify and ultimately remove the fragment.
The plaintiff alleged the defendant broke off the screw in her mouth and then left the foreign object fragment in her mouth. She further alleged the defendant failed to promptly identify and remove the foreign body.
The defendant moved for summary judgment and cited the plaintiff’s failure to produce expert medical proof. The plaintiff’s expert witness would not identify any specific standard of care violation. The plaintiff countered that while not explicitly identifying a standard of care violation, violations could be inferred from his testimony. She further argued that even in the absence of expert proof, this foreign body case was a classic res ipsa loquitur presentation. The judge denied the motion. The case proceeded to a jury trial where the defense contended that the broken screw was just a complication that may have been related to a defective screw.
The jury returned a defense verdict.
With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.