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Maryland Court Discusses Standard of Proof in Dental Malpractice Cases

When people hear the phrase “medical malpractice,” they often think of harm caused by a surgeon or primary care physician, but medical malpractice also encompasses harm by practitioners in other fields, such as dentists. Recently, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed what constitutes sufficient proof of dental negligence in a case in which the plaintiff could not identify the specific mechanism of harm. If you suffered harm due to dental negligence, it is sensible to meet with a knowledgeable Baltimore dental malpractice attorney regarding your options for seeking compensation.

Factual Background of the Case and Trial

It is alleged that the plaintiff visited the defendant dentist for the surgical extraction of her wisdom teeth. She had never treated with the defendant before. Prior to the extraction, she was given a consent form for the extraction, which she signed. The defendant did not discuss the procedure with the plaintiff before giving her the consent form. The plaintiff was conscious during the procedure and recalled that the defendant had difficulty extracting one tooth, and when it was successfully removed, the defendant and his assistants were yelling and cheering.

Reportedly, following the surgery, the plaintiff never regained sensation or the ability to taste in the left side of her mouth. She ultimately visited a dental surgeon, who diagnosed her with a severe injury of the left lingual nerve. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. During the trial, the plaintiff’s expert testified regarding the standard of care for dental extractions and stated that there were two possible ways in which he thought that the injury might have occurred. The defendant moved for judgment in his favor at the close of evidence, which the court granted. The plaintiff then appealed.

Proof of Dental Malpractice Under Maryland Law

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that her expert set forth two possible ways in which the injury could have occurred, both of which would violate the standard of care. Thus, she argued that there was sufficient evidence for jurors to conclude that the defendant breached the standard of care and that the breach caused her injury. The defendant argued, however, that since the plaintiff failed to specify how the injury occurred, her evidence was insufficient to show a breach or causation.

The court noted that due to the complicated nature of dental malpractice cases, expert testimony is usually needed to establish both a breach and causation. The court stated, however, that the defendant’s records were sparse and provided no detail regarding the exact manner in which the plaintiff’s teeth were extracted. As a result, the plaintiff’s expert was required to infer facts regarding the extraction. Accordingly, the court found that the plaintiff’s expert’s opinions were not speculation but instead relied on inferences based on facts. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

Speak with a Trusted Malpractice Attorney

If you were injured by a negligently performed dental procedure, it is wise to speak with a trusted Maryland dental malpractice attorney regarding your damages and potential claims. The zealous attorneys at Arfaa Law Group will work tirelessly to help you seek the best result available under the facts of your case. You can contact us at (410) 889-1850 or through our form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

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